The government has postponed the next business rates revaluation for a year, until April 2023, and launched a call for evidence on reforming the system.
The new revaluation date means it will be based on rents payable in April 2021, reflecting the impact of the pandemic.
It’s the latest in a series of reschedulings for the revaluation. It had originally been set for 2022, but in March this year legislation was introduced in the House of Lords bringing it forward a year to 2021. It would then be based on rents payable in April 2019, in a move intended to help retailers by providing more up-to-date ratings sooner.
But in April the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Independent Retailers Association warned that would be disastrous because the revaluation would be based on pre-Covid rents. The industry bodies called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to push the revaluation back to 2022 and base it on rents payable a year prior, in April 2021, rather than two years.
In May the government agreed to postpone it. Although no new date was specified in the announcement, it would have defaulted to 2022 under legislation.
Today’s confirmation that it will be in 2023 has received a mixed welcome from commentators. While it means it will be based on rents in 2021 – as the ACS and BIRA had demanded – it also means rates bills will be calculated according to the 2017 revaluation, based on 2015 rents, for another three years.
“Such a long list is in nobody’s interest and only intensifies the need for urgent business rates reform,” said Colliers International head of business rates John Webber.
Alex Probyn, UK president of expert services at property advisors Altus Group, said: “A revaluation reflecting the emerging post Covid-19 economy and the ‘new normal’ must be the right thing to do. This will translate into lower tax demands in the longer term.”
Announcing the new date in a parliamentary statement today, Jesse Norman, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “Under current legislation, the next revaluation would take effect on 1 April 2022 based on pre-Covid-19 property values as of 1 April 2019. In May 2020, the government announced a postponement to provide greater certainty for firms affected by the impacts of Covid-19.
“The government is today announcing that the next revaluation of non-domestic property in England will instead take effect on 1 April 2023. So that it better reflects the impact of Covid-19, it will be based on property values as of 1 April 2021.”
The call for evidence is seeking views on a range of possible reforms including introducing an online sales tax and replacing business rates with an alternative ‘capital values tax’. A capital values tax would be based on the value of property and land and payable by the owner rather than the tenant.
The call for evidence is part of a business rates review which the government committed to in the spring budget. The deadline for submissions is 31 October, although some sections require responses sooner, by 18 September.
BRC director of business and regulation Tom Ironside said: “Business rates are a huge burden for retailers even in normal circumstances, and the current system has contributed to store closures and job losses across the country.
“Securing a review of the system is a long-standing priority for the industry, and so we welcome the announcement of the call for evidence, which progresses a key objective for the BRC and the industry. Over the coming weeks, we will be working closely with retailers to develop our response. The overarching objective of the review must be a sustainable system that is fit for the 21st century and which reduces the overall burden on retail.”