It’s six months since I took the helm at the British Retail Consortium, and there have been plenty of highlights along the way.
It’s six months since I took the helm at the BRC, and there have been plenty of highlights along the way as I’ve immersed myself in the heady mix of exciting but challenging issues that our skilled teams deal with day to day.
And the issues don’t come much more topical than tax. As the G8 summit demonstrated, it’s riding high on the global agenda and prompting plenty of strong views and tense exchanges.
The stakes are high because it’s a dizzyingly complex arena, from looking at intricate arrangements to move profits into low tax jurisdictions to whether revenues are being reported in the correct country.
But these are overarching global issues - we need to home in on the questions specific to the retail industry. And the first and most fundamental of these is asking how a tax system developed hundreds of years ago can be brought into line with the vast, dynamic and ever-evolving sector of the 21st century.
Keeping pace with viewpoints and the relationship between the fast-developing retail landscape and the tax regime is a top priority for the BRC - we want to consider carefully how the system can best meet the interests of consumers, economic growth, stability and the industry as a whole over the longer term.
PwC’s recent report, showing that the tax burden on Britain’s largest retailers has increased 65% since 2005, strengthens the case for reform even further.
While corporation tax may be riding higher in the headlines, the report makes it all too clear that it’s other taxes, especially business rates, that are weighing most heavily on the industry. For every £1 of corporation tax paid by big retailers they’re paying £2.40 in other taxes, which includes £1.44 in business rates.
That is way out of step with industry innovation and high street health, and I know from talking to chief executives that operate stores the seriousness of the burden of business rates and how they are impacting on their decision-making like never before.
Rates and wider reform are both difficult areas that can’t be resolved by one person or within this word count, so the BRC is taking forward the debate. We need to go further than saying it is not fair.
As part of this work we’re getting senior industry figures around the table to work out how to take forward ideas to make the tax system of the future work across the full spectrum of retail, as well as where next for business rates.
Such complex issues need constructive and forward-looking dialogue focused on consequences, evidence and proposed solutions.
The BRC is hugely grateful to Retail Week and its readers for your valuable involvement in the Fair Rates for Retail campaign.
With our tax round table upcoming, we’d like to ask you again to feed in your ideas for business rates reform and any reflections on the wider tax debate. I hope you’ll join the conversation.
- Helen Dickinson, director-general, BRC