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bira believes that the Government has lost an opportunity to reform business rates.

bira understands that business rates raise £25bn – a valuable pot of money for the Treasury.  However, the Chancellors lack of action regarding making the system fairer completely contradicts statements made by the Minister for High Streets (Marcus Jones), who stated that the Government “need thriving high streets, strong independent retailers and local economies that match the exceptional growth that UK plc has experienced since 2010”[1].

In addition, the fact that the Chancellor has announced that pubs will have a £1,000 discount on their business tax bills whilst ignoring the fact that Amazon will receive a reduction in business rates from April 2017 [2] as well as the Treasury’s introduction of discretionary business relief for local newspapers [3]. totally undermines the Government’s rhetoric that they understand that high street retailers need support in these tumultuous times.

This means that following this budget, bira will be looking to hold the Government to their promises that they understand the needs of retailers by campaigning for

1. A much more urgent review on the effects of the business rates re-evaluation than the Chancellor has committed to

2. An immediate retail-specific business rate relief, as actioned by the Welsh Assembly to help thousands of independent retailers

3. The development of a £12,000 threshold, as opposed to a £12,000 allowance to redress the current imbalance regarding current business rate bills

4. A thorough evaluation and then fundamental reform of the rating system as promised by the previous chancellor in 2014

On the issue of making tax digital, bira welcomes the decision by the Government to delay making tax digital for businesses under the VAT threshold for another year. However, we hope that the Chancellor understands that this stay of execution does not change the fact that many of these smaller businesses will still be unprepared when this does become mandatory next year.

We therefore encourage the Government to implement an effective structure ahead of this change to ensure that businesses can adapt easily at that point.  After all, it is also in the Government’s interests to ensure that businesses do not have to spend valuable and unnecessary hours trying to comply at the expense of running their businesses.

Finally, whilst bira understand that there is a gap between the NICS contribution from the self-employed compared to those that are “employed”, it is important to remember that several those running these small businesses do not receive the same entitlements and benefits as their employed counterparts – such as holiday and sick leave.   Therefore, the Government needs to ensure that, in return for the increase in NICS, the self-employed are given some of the protections that NICS provide to their employed counterparts. bira would therefore encourage a complete consultation with those affected by this change to ensure that the correct balance is struck.

bira rates manifesto

[1] House of Commons Hansard

[2] Steve Hawkes for the Sun

[3] Government Business Rate Relief