In the space of a few days, a wave of essential retailers has voluntarily returned the best part of £2bn in business rates relief to the government. In doing so they have won the public relations battle, but have they lost the long-term rates reform war?
“It’s absolutely the right thing to do.” They were the words of Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy when Britain’s largest grocer said it would be voluntarily waiving £585m in rates relief, which was implemented across the retail sector by the government at the start of the coronavirus crisis in the UK.
The line has since been parroted by a number of other essential retail chief executives as many scrambled to follow Tesco’s lead.
Within 72 hours of the supermarket titan’s decision, the Government pocketed almost £2bn in tax from retailers ranging from fellow big-four grocers Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons to other essential retailers Pets at Home and B&M.
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