Retailers are anxious about the progress and breadth of the Government’s review of business rates as the deadline for submitting evidence expires.
The coalition Government pledged the “most wide-ranging review in a generation” in March and called on retailers to respond to 15 questions on business rates by today (Friday).
It is understood retailers were largely pleased with the scope of the questions and the potential for reform, but they are now growing concerned about how seriously the Government is taking the issue.
The Conservative manifesto said the party would overhaul rates by 2017 if it won the general election. The review is due to conclude in March next year, but the lack of a detailed time frame of the next steps following the call for evidence is causing frustration among retailers.
It is feared that if the Government is not more proactive there will not be sufficient time to introduce the legislature needed for fundamental reform of the rates system in 2017.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) industry body is calling on the Conservative Government to make the review is a “top priority” and argues there is an “urgent need” for the government to clarify its position by setting out a detailed timetable.
A BRC spokesman said: “Business rates have grown in recent years and remain dislocated to wider economic performance or the ability to pay. This is a tax on jobs and growth.
“There is an urgent need for the Government to set out the review’s remaining milestones. This should include short-term relief measures for retailers of all shapes and sizes, the use of independent research and analysis and the Government setting out its vision for business taxation and the role and structure of business rates within that. It should be a top priority for the Government.”
The retail industry is calling for a clear vision for business taxation and whether the tax should be based on property or not. Some have suggested business rates should be based on sales to ensure online retailers pay their fair share.
There are also worries about whether a radical reform of rates will be fiscally neutral. Chancellor George Osborne does not want any changes to lead to a fall in tax receipts.