The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was more interesting for what wasn’t in it than what was. The popular Retail Rate Relief scheme that gave retailers up to £1,500 off their business rates bill was most notable by its absence, with the Treasury later confirming that it was not to be renewed.
Ahead of the Budget in March, we have called for the Chancellor to reinstate this rates discount and go further, providing retailers with up to £2,000-off their rates bill.
We believe c-stores have been bearing too high a business rates burden, and that this is compounded by the costs of challenging often inaccurate valuations. That’s why we’re pushing for a threshold below which businesses need not be valued for business rates.
Special schemes for forecourts and also ATMs have also got out of kilter and need to be reviewed.
While most of our recommendations to the Chancellor this year have been focused on restructuring the way businesses pay taxes, there is one key recommendation that is far simpler and could help plug a £3bn hole in the economy every year. The illicit trade in alcohol and tobacco is hugely damaging to local shops and needs to be tackled as a top priority. We are calling for ring-fenced funding for HM Revenue and Customs to stop these criminals trading in local areas by removing licences for stores that are selling illicit goods.
The Chancellor will almost certainly be looking at ways to claim he is helping small businesses when he stands up on 16 March. The measures that we have outlined in our submission would make that happen.