The controversy over business rates has picked up momentum early in 2017, with critics from various quarters stepping up to make their voices heard. These include:
- the CBI
- the British Retail Consortium (BRC)
- the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
- Vince Cable
- Lord Tebbit
“There are growing concerns that rate rises on the back of the 2017 revaluation will hurt the economy, and retailers in particular,” observes business rates expert Paul Giness, of The Beattie Partnership.
Considering the barrage of criticism, are there alternatives to business rates that could ease the burden on businesses?
The Shelved BRC Proposals
A few years ago, the BRC announced that it was proposing three options as alternatives to the current rates system. Two of these involved offering discounts on rates to businesses fulfilling certain criteria, while a third, more radical option, was to replace business rates altogether with an energy tax.
“Later in the same year it proposed these changes, the BRC shelved them,” Paul says, “stating that they thought it was too soon for such a radical overhaul. However, for many businesses now, the new business rates themselves are radical, and are causing a great deal of fear in anticipation of their introduction.”
Is There an Answer to the Business Rates Controversy?
In many respects this is a war of words before the full impact of the new rates is felt, with the UK government rejecting its critics’ suggestions that it has underestimated the effects of business rates on the economy.
“There will be transitional arrangements designed to ease the burden of changes, and some rates payers may actually see reductions in their rates rather than increases”
Paul Giness, The Beattie Partnership
However, Paul does point out that the uncertainty surrounding business rates is itself harmful.
“Not knowing what to expect is bad for business, and this is on top of the fact that business rates are already seen by many as unfair and in need of wholesale reform,” he says. “The problem may be that reform has come, but not in a way that will satisfy critics, and ratepayers.”
It might be time to look at alternatives once more. It has been suggested that the government might move to a self-assessment system to cut through the bureaucracy, but will this place a greater burden on the ratepayer?
“Many people paying business rates already feel like they’re under pressure,” says Paul, “so any changes really ought to consider this.”
“For now, it is important that you check your listing in the draft rating list, and seek advice, if you think that any of the details about you are incorrect”, concludes Paul.
To discover how the rates revaluation may financially impact you, please call The Beattie Partnership on 0161 228 2224.