Chancellor George Osborne today (March 19) set out measures to boost business exports as he focused on “makers, doers and savers” in the Budget.
However, Osborne failed to make any announcements on business rates. He said the Government will double export finance lending to £3bn and cut interest rates on it by a third to make it more accessible to UK businesses.
He said: “Britain has got to up its game – and today we do. For decades the British government has been the last port of call, when we should be backing British businesses wanting to sell abroad. Instead of having the least competitive export finance in Europe. We will have the most competitive.”
British Retail Consortium director general Helen Dickinson said: “British retailers in ecommerce already export more than £4bn of goods to customers overseas.
“There is scope to increase that amount to around £28bn per year by 2020 if the conditions are right. The Chancellor’s measures to extend the role for UKTI will be warmly welcomed by our members who are keenly promoting their businesses abroad.”
Osborne also revealed that businesses will have an extra three years until 31 March 2018 to locate in business hubs called ‘Enterprise Zones’ where they can claim business rate discounts. But he did not build on the announcements he made in the Autumn Statement last year which included a 2% cap on business rate rises in April rather than the expected 3.2% increase.
Business rates are a significant concern for retailers who believe the high cost of rates are restricting investment and job creation.
Additionally, Government will consult on creating a much wider retail-use class and make it easier for businesses to expand, including changes to car park and loading bays.
Osborne also unveiled several measures to put money in consumers’ pockets. The point at which people start paying income tax will be raised to £10,500 in 2015/16 and the planned fuel duty rise in September has been scrapped. Meanwhile, all long haul flights will have a lower rate of fuel duty.
Osborne said today’s Budget was “a budget for building a resilient economy. If you are a maker, a doer or a saver this budget is for you”.
Osborne also unveiled a raft of measures for pensioners ending all tax restrictions on pensioners’ access to their pension pots and tax on cash taken out of pension pots on retirement to be reduced from 55% to 20%.The Chancellor said Britain will not have a deficit by 2018/19 and will make a surplus of almost £5bn.
Dickinson added: “Our customers will welcome the Chancellor’s focus on putting more money in their pockets through changing the tax thresholds, fuel duty and savings and pensions arrangements. The BRC’s projections demonstrate that whilst recovery is now a tangible trend, progress is still fragile and retail can play a strong role going forward provided that consumers feel confident enough to spend.”
Osborne said the Government will double export finance lending to £3bn and cut interest rates on it by a third to make it more accessible to UK businesses.
The Chancellor said Britain will not have a deficit by 2018/19 and will make a surplus of almost £5bn.
KPMG UK head of retail David McCorquodale said: “Many of the measures are aimed at putting extra pounds in the pocket of the consumer.
“Retailers will be keen to look at the detail of the measures to encourage exports as they look to grow on new frontiers. However, they are still looking for reform of the business rates regime at home and the elimination of the red tape that discourages foreign tourists from making the trip over to the UK.”
A Suit That Fits co-founder David Hathiramani said: “I was particularly encouraged that long-haul flights will carry a lower rate of air duty.
“We are also looking to expand to territories outside of the UK, US and Ireland where we currently trade. One of the limiting factors for us, and many other small businesses, is the cost of transport for investigative trips - this will ease the burden. As we expand, the increased lending for exporters and the cut of interest rates on that lending sounds good.”
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