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Tory business rate pledges will not have "meaningful impact", experts say
10 December 2019

Retailers will see business rates cut by just 0.03% from 2021 under Conservative spending plans, according to analysis by rates experts.

Specialist advisory firm Altus Group said plans to reduce business rates by £10 million a year from 2021 to 2023 do not go far enough to have a “meaningful impact”.

Speaking before the annual CBI conference last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to reduce business rates as well as launch a review into the rates system.

Retailers have criticised the current business rates system for exacerbating the decline on the high street, placing high cost pressures on shops, pubs and cinemas.

Retail bosses backed Johnson after he told business leaders that he would “reduce the overall burden” of business rates.

The Conservative manifesto outlines plans to reduce the rates burden by £320 million in the 2020-21 financial year, by extending a retail discount from 33% to 50% for businesses with a rateable value below £51,000.

However, for the three following years, it said it would only reduce total tax receipts by £10 million each year.

Altus Group said this compares to a business rates yield of more than £33 billion for each year from 2021-22, meaning the rates cut will only reduce the burden by 0.03%.

The manifesto does not clarify how the £10 million reduction will be implemented or spread across rateable businesses.

Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus, said: “The commitment to lower the burden as part of a wider review is an acknowledgement that the standard rate of tax, at its highest level since 1990, at over 50%, is a major issue for business across all sectors of the economy.

“However, the promised cut of around 0.03% from April 2021 whilst a start, will need to go much further and deeper to have a meaningful impact.

The Conservative Party did not respond to requests for comment.

The party also promised a major review into the business rates system in its manifesto.

Meanwhile, Labour said it will launch a review into business rates which could see an extra tax placed on property landlords. The Liberal Democrat manifesto highlighted plans to scrap business rates entirely in favour of a levy on landlords.

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