More than 100 retailers and suppliers have joined forces to demand business rate reform in an open letter addressed to all political parties.
The group including Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the John Lewis Partnership and Marks & Spencer calls the current business rate system outmoded and “no longer fit for purpose”.
The group claims the current system, in which rates are calculated based on property values, is hampering new investment and job creation. Under the current system UK businesses currently pay the highest property taxes in Europe and the second highest in the OECD, said the letter published in a full-page ad in the Telegraph this week.
It calls for the Britain’s political parties to include rates reform in their manifestos to drive the revival of Britain’s high streets. “A modern, sustainable and transparent system would unleash investment that could bring skilled and entry level jobs and new and expanded businesses into our local communities,” the letter said. “Those who seek a competitive tax regime as a draw for investment and jobs should apply that logic to business rates.”
The British Retail Consortium said the current business rates system unfairly overburdens labour and property intensive industries, calling it “anachronistic, creaky, unwieldy and expensive”, which “only functions through a myriad of exemptions”.
“The way people shop is changing. Physical property is no longer the business driver it once was but our high streets have huge social as well as economic impact in our local communities. Unfairly, Business Rates positively disincentivise retailers and other consumer facing businesses including cafes, pubs, theatres and cinemas from investing in physical space and are forcing others to close.”
The major retailers were joined by a hot of high street names and smaller retail chains such as Bargain Booze, Wine Rack and Costcutter as well as leading suppliers such as Premier Foods, 2 Sisters and Heineken.
The British Council of Shopping Centres called for the tax to be reviewed more frequently. “In its current form it is taxing growth and productivity. Ideally it should be reviewed annually but in the short to medium term every two to three years,” said Edward Cooke, director of policy and public affairs.