Both the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) and the John Lewis Partnership have responded to the Treasury Select Committee’s report on business rates, which was published last week.
Bira (representing 6000 independent retail businesses across the UK, including cookshops and housewares stockists) welcomes the results of the government’s inquiry, but is disappointed with the recommendations for reform.
The association is pleased that the report is clear about the current business rates system needing reform by removing complexities, incentivising investment and changing the Check Challenge Appeal process.
Andrew Goodacre, ceo of Bira, said: “It is clear that the committee has listened to the concerns of retailers about the effects the outdated system is having on business. However, we would like to have seen stronger recommendations for reform resulting in a reduction in the business rates burden on those businesses struggling the most.”
He added: “Hopefully the various political parties will include recommendations from this report in the new election manifestos.”
The Committee behind the inquiry, led by The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, visited the Bira offices in Birmingham in May to speak with cookshops and other independent retailers about the burden of business rates.
At this meeting and previous meetings with the Treasury, Bira put forward its own suggestion of a rates free allowance of £12,000 for the smallest retailers. Bira now hope to have the opportunity to work with the Treasury to test the idea.
Meanwhile, Chris Harris, property director at the John Lewis Partnership said in response to the Treasury Select Committee’s report: “The Government should reform business taxation, which weighs heavy on businesses that employ a lot of people and use property. As a first step it should unblock the business rates appeals system. This is silted up with thousands of outstanding cases meaning that many retailers are paying too much in rates.”
Chris continued: “An online sales tax is not the answer as it would be a tax on the growing part of the retail industry. For the high street to survive it needs successful retailers that respond to consumer demand through physical stores and online.”
The John Lewis Partnership (John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners) paid £179m in business rates for 2018/2019.
Top: Senior MPs and retailers, including housewares stockists, got together at Bira’s HQ in May to discuss the burdens of business rates.