George Osborne is to pledge to overhaul business rates in a review in his Autumn Statement later today (3rd December).
The Chancellor is expected to announce a review of business rates in the pre-budget statement in the House of Commons at 12.30pm, although it won’t be completed until early 2016.
The Booksellers Association and British Retail Consortium, along with many other business groups, have been campaigning for an overhaul of the 400-year-old system for the last few years. The trade body signed a petition recently along with booksellers such as Waterstones, Foyles and WH Smith and tens of other businesses calling for a “modern, transparent and sustainable rates system” to be implemented in the UK.
Waterstones m.d James Daunt has said the issue was "close to his heart". He has previously said: "Rates is a huge additional tax on the high street that is disproportionately high.The government should seek to collect as much tax as it can ... but at what point do rates tip viable retailers out of the high street? Our political masters need to address this. We have a tax on our operations that the online guys don't."
Rises in business rates rises are also one of the top three reasons independent booksellers give for having to close their businesses, with regular complaints from small businesses that rates rise every year, and that it is an unfair tax that rival online retailers do not have to pay.
Along with pledging to transform business rates, Osborne is also expected to guarantee £500m of bank lending to small and medium-sized businesses in his Autumn Statement and pledged £400m to extend a funding scheme for such companies.
Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The retail industry’s championing of the need for fundamental reform of business rates is being increasingly amplified by industries as diverse as steel and car manufacturing and some of the country’s largest property companies. This is a strong indication that the time is right to set out a roadmap to fundamentally reform the system and make it fit for purpose for the 21st century. We do not have any expectation that this could be fulfilled in advance of the general election but an indication that it will be on the agenda for a future government will resonate very well across British business and facilitate further planning to allow business to play a fuller part in the economic recovery.”