BRC calls for freeze on business rates “burden” until 2021

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The British Retail Consortium has ramped up its battle against business rates by calling for a three-year freeze on increases.

The group said that the retail industry “shoulders far more than its fare share” of rates bills and that the tax was “leading to store closures”.

To minimise further damage to the sector, the BRC has called for the government to freeze rates rises until 2021 to allow for the “reinvention” and modernisation of retailers at a crucial time.

It added that there are 2500 fewer retail stores in the UK than there were in 2015, and 3200 retail insolvencies had taken place since 2014.

Retail is also responsible for the payment of nearly 25 per cent of the UK’s business rates bills totally around £7 billion per year, despite making up five per cent of the total economy.

“The current business rates system is not fit for purpose,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“It is a 20th-century answer to a 21st-century problem. Retail shoulders far more than its fair share, and the rates bill is leading to store closures and getting in the way of reinvention of our high streets.

“The BRC is calling on government to freeze business rates until the 2021 revaluation to relieve the burden of this unfair tax on retail businesses and allow time for dialogue about the wholesale modernisation of business taxation.

“This would be welcome government support for the country’s largest private sector employer at a critical time.”

The business rates system has come under intense criticism since a dramatic revaluation in April last year which saw swathes of businesses bills rise dramatically.

Leaders across the retail industry and the government have vocally opposed the tax, including shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, who accused the government of creating a “recipe for complete high street annihilation”.

Tesco’s Dave Lewis, the Bank of England’s Mark Carney, The Entertainer’s Gary Grant, Argos’ John Rogers, Mary Portas and numerous other high profile names have flagged the tax for damaging retail.

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