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UK’s biggest retailers criticise “outdated” business rates changes

Chloe Burney
06 March 2023

Business rates reforms are being slammed by retail bosses, claiming it is a "far cry" from the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto pledge.

Some of the UK's biggest retailers, such as M&S and Sainsbury's, have warned that business rates are leaps and bounds away from what the British high street was promised, with business owners facing high tax burdens, especially in city centres.

Business rates are charged on shops and other business properties based on their rental value. This system has been criticised for punishing those with a physical presence in town centres, in comparison to online retailers facing lower bills.

Despite the government's promise to review, retailers say changes so far are insufficient. Previous changes included the removal of a transition period for businesses to benefit from lower bills and frequent revaluations.

Stuart Machin, Marks & Spencer CEO, commented: "We welcomed the Government freezing rates and ending downwards transition last year but it's time they take decisive action to protect the retail industry, create jobs, bring customers back and support communities."

He continues, adding that shops make up just over 5% of the economy but pay almost a quarter of business rates, which is forcing increased pricing.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was praised for handing out £13.6 billion in business rates support last year. However, The British Retail Consortium said they were "essential steps" and "a far cry" from the Conservatives' 2019 manifesto pledge.

The Government argues that it has provided "generous" business rates support whilst its reforms, levelling the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

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