The Spring Budget tinkers with business rates, falling far short of reform

The Spring Budget tinkers with business rates, falling far short of reform

The Chancellor today announced a measures in the Spring Budget aimed to reduce the business rates bills for some small businesses. Business rates are a tax levied on the value of business property. The measures include a cap on how much business rates will rise for small businesses whose property has moved above the threshold for Small Business Rate Relief, a fund for Local Authorities to offer discretionary relief for businesses and a one-off reduction of £1,000 in business rates for the majority of pubs.

These measures are being introduced as businesses face revised bills in April after the first revaluation of business properties since 2010. Since many businesses have experienced their property values – and tax bills – changing significantly in this time, there are many significant winners and losers.

While this introduces some limited relief for specific businesses, the measures amount to less than 0.5% of business rates revenue over the next 5 years. The Chancellor did signal an intention of reform – including finding better ways to tax the digital economy – which could look to address several broader issues including:

  • The economic impact on businesses, given the UK has the second highest business property taxes in the OECD – in contrast to a highly competitive corporation tax regime
  • The discrepancy in the tax bills of bricks-and-mortar and online-only retailers, given the more property-intensive model of bricks-and-mortar retailing
  • The structure of the tax – which means that (unlike most taxes) the tax rate is adjusted so that the government’s tax revenue remains constant (accounting for inflation) and does not flex up and down in line with the underlying economic activity
  • The current revenues of c. £30bn from business rates, and the sustainability of this revenue over time.

Frontier regularly advises clients on these and other tax issues.

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