High street

The group representing the £360bn retail property sector has joined calls for a radical overhaul of business rates in the spring Budget.

Revo is demanding an immediate reduction in the tax, which has risen from 34% to 50% of rateable values since 1990.

It has become “one of the highest corporate taxes in the world”, making reform “crucial to ensuring that the UK remains internationally competitive” outside the EU, according to the body.

Revo, representing all stakeholders in the retail property sector, says the reduction for physical businesses should be offset by a digital sales tax.

The group has also joined calls from the bosses of 50 major retailers for the end of ‘downwards transitional phasing’, which limits how quickly business rates can fall in line with dropping rents.

In a letter to new Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Revo has said it wants a new rate of tax that can be adjusted annually to reflect changing economic conditions. It also urges more investment in the business rates and appeals infrastructure, including new technology and extra human resources.

“The government must deliver on its commitment to review the business rates system, and act swiftly and radically,” said Revo CEO Ed Cooke. “Inevitably this should include considering a form of digital sales tax to allow for an immediate reduction in business rates, which at more than 50% is one of the least competitive corporate tax rates in the world.

“We call on the new Chancellor to put in place a system that allows for the iniquitous downward transition policy to be abolished, which would signal meaningful support for retail businesses, particularly in areas where the Conservative Party was lent votes in last year’s general election.”

Revo highlighted the £20bn in taxes generated annually by retail. The sector employs more than three million people but shed 80,0000 jobs in 2019, based on evidence cited from the Centre for Retail Research.

Among other “expectations for radical reform”, Revo said it wanted more investment in town centres, through the Future High Streets Fund and the Towns Fund.

It has also urged the government to make good on its manifesto commitment to roll out gigabit broadband across the country by 2025.