A parliamentary inquiry aimed at levelling the playing field between bricks-and-mortar retailers and their offline rivals is being taken up a gear.

The Communities and Local Government Select Committee is preparing to extend the reach of the ongoing examination of business rates, after the Government’s handling of the issue was widely criticised last month.

It is understood that a public meeting with communities minister Sajid Javid to discuss the white paper will be extended so that committee chairman Clive Betts may raise his concerns.

In the Budget unveiled earlier this month, Chancellor Philip Hammond said there was scope for reform and that the digital part of the economy needed to be better taxed in the medium term.

However, no specific measures were announced.

Betts said: “There is a fundamental problem in the way valuations for business rates are done and that needs to be looked at.

“High-street shops seem to pay more than a similar unit out of town. That doesn’t feel right when there is a public and political view that high streets need some form of protection.

“There’s also an imbalance between property-based businesses and online sellers.”

Relief for etail

An analysis by business rent and rates specialist CVS previously found that Amazon’s nine distribution centres in England and Wales are set to benefit from a £148,000 reduction in property tax liabilities in April.

Likewise, etailers AO.com, Shop Direct and ASOS will have their tax bills cut by 2.12%.

CVS chief executive Mark Rigby said: “I’m delighted an inquiry will now be had around the tax system to ensure that it is fit for purpose for the 21st century economy. Fairness must be at the heart of that inquiry so local communities can thrive moving forward.”