Chancellor urged to force councils to free up cash for retailers

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Chancellor urged to force councils to free up cash for retailers
Experts also say the government should consider pausing enforcement action during the shutdown.
// Chancellor Rishi Sunak urged to get billions of tax rebates back into retailers’ bank accounts
// BRC & Altus Group say retailers should claim some of the £4.1bn held in reserve by local councils
// The extra cash is held by councils to cover the cost of appeals made over business rates bills

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to get billions of pounds worth of tax rebates back into the bank accounts of retailers to help aid cash flow during the coronavirus pandemic.

The BRC and rates specialist Altus Group said retailers suffering hardest financially from the coronavirus crisis should be able to claim some of the extra £4.1 billion held in reserve by local councils.

Extra cash is held by councils to cover the cost of appeals made over business rates bills, although the process has slowed considerably over recent years, leaving councillors sitting on the much-needed cash.


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“In these exceptional circumstances the Government should settle all outstanding business rates appeals without question and pay back the money claimed by ratepayers. It would offer a vital lifeline for many retailers,” BRC property adviser Dominic Curran said.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, all restaurants, cafes and stores that do not sell essentials such as food and medicine have closed and the government has already given a one-year 100 per cent business rates holiday for these premises.

Businesses have also been given the relief of VAT and National Insurance payment deferrals.

Meanwhile, staff have been protected with the Treasury promising to cover up to 80 per cent of wages for employees and for self-employed small businesses owners who can no longer work due to the government-mandated shutdown.

Alex Probyn, Altus Group’s UK president of expert services, said he believes with appeals so low “there are now significant and substantial funds held by councils earmarked and reserved for tax rebates back to business”.

Curran added it was “unacceptable that billions of pounds were sat in councils’ reserves doing nothing at this time of national crisis”.

“It is money that has already been collected to cover business rate appeals,” he said.

“Many of these businesses may not even be around in a few months to receive it unless the Chancellor acts now.”

Altus added that the government should also consider pausing enforcement action during the shutdown, after around 750 non-domestic properties a day were summonsed before a magistrate, with 310 bailiff referrals in the last financial year.

with PA Wires

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