With just under a week to go before the General Election, business owners have their eyes peeled to see what the future holds for them. With all major parties promising to look again at Business Rates, could this be a watershed moment?
Companies across the UK have been urging the government to look at the subject of business rates for many years. With the economy bouncing back, and an election looming, it looks as though momentum has finally shifted in their favour, with every one of the major parties promising to review the system. For many businesses, this news can’t come soon enough.
“How business rates are calculated and applied hasn’t changed much since they were first introduced nearly 30 years ago,” explains Paul Giness of The Beattie Partnership, one of the UK’s leading ratings specialists. “But the business landscape in general has changed massively in that time, with e-commerce, supermarkets and retail parks all transforming how people buy and sell”.
A review of how business rates are calculated has already been launched by the current Conservative/Lib Dem administration, with Danny Alexander saying, in March: “Now the time has come for a radical review of this important tax. We want to ensure the business rates system is fair, efficient and effective.”
Before the results of this review are even in, however, both Labour and UKIP are promising a radical reduction in Business Rates. Both parties’ plans apply mainly to small businesses using properties with rateable values under £50,000, meaning a potential boost for high street stores.
“It all depends on who wins the election,” continues Paul. “And whether they stick to their promises. Whatever happens, though, the civil servants in Whitehall are already working on the review so changes to business rates seem inevitable.”
It’s unlikely that any change in rates will happen overnight but there certainly seems to be more scope for optimism than ever before. What form those changes take depends greatly on what happens on May 7th.