There is one key recommendation that is far simpler and could help plug a £3bn hole in the economy every year. The illicit trade needs to be tackled.
At the end of last year, the Chancellor delivered an Autumn Statement that for our sector, appeared to be more interesting for what wasn’t in it than what was announced at the dispatch box.
The popular and helpful Retail Rate Relief scheme that gave retailers up to £1,500 off their business rates bill was most notable by its absence, with the Treasury later confirming that it was not to be renewed.
At the heart of our submission to the Government ahead of the Budget in March, we have called for the Chancellor to reinstate this rates discount and go further, providing retailers with up to £2,000 off their rates bill.
The issue of business rates has been looming large over our sector for a number of years, with Government promising a report on their plans for fundamental reform in this Budget.
We believe that convenience stores have been bearing too high a business rates burden, and that this is compounded by the costs of challenging often inaccurate valuations.
That’s why we’re pushing for a threshold below which businesses need not be valued for business rates. The savings to the Valuation Office could be enormous, and the simplicity would certainly be welcomed by local shops.
While a lot of our recommendations to the Chancellor this year have been focused on restructuring the way businesses pay taxes and engage with local authorities, there is one key recommendation that is far simpler and could help plug a £3bn hole in the economy every year. The illicit trade in alcohol and tobacco is hugely damaging to local shops across the UK and needs to be tackled as a top priority.
We are calling for ring-fenced funding for HM Revenue & Customs to stop these criminals trading in local areas by removing licences for stores that are selling illicit goods.
The Chancellor will almost certainly be looking at ways to claim that he is helping high streets and small businesses when he stands up on March 16. The measures that we have outlined in our submission would make that happen.