The pernicious impact of business rates, for a long time a cause of irritation among retailers, has been taken up by the national media as a cause worth fighting for.
It’s welcome (and it’s about time) as it will add further pressure on the government to look at the whole system, but the fact that the consumer press are getting involved at all should be taken as a strong indication that the current system is unjust and broken. To base a business tax on the rental income of the property is bizarre to start with, and to revalue it after seven years means that you inevitably get huge disparities between winners and losers.
Those to lose out are small businesses in the South East, where property prices have climbed, and those to fare better are generally in less-affluent areas, including, of course, some very large warehouses for very large online retailers. And what is worse, to lessen the exposure of appeals on cash-strapped local authorities, the appeals system has changed so it’ll be harder to get any money back.
We’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here: there’s only so much that tinkering with business rates can achieve. We need a new system of business taxation altogether.