Business rates bombshell further burdens independent retailers

Next month’s Budget could reveal proposals to bring in self-assessment for business rates, placing further burdens on independent retailers.

Next month’s Budget could reveal proposals to bring in self-assessment for business rates, according to industry experts, placing further burdens on independent retailers.

The move, which would help the Government save on Valuation Office Agency costs, is thought to be the Government’s preferred choice for overhauling the business rates system.

It would require retailers to calculate their own business rates, but experts say it would be “incredibly difficult” to get right.   

Speaking to Retail Express, business rates expert Paul Turner-Mitchell said with one in three current rates valuations appealed, it was notoriously difficult to calculate business rates, even for the experts, let alone small businesses assessing themselves.

“It’s incredibly difficult, time-consuming and burdensome for retailers,” he said. “Rating is incredibly complex, you’re effectively going to ask the SME to be part of that process and expect them to get it right. Unless there are wholesale changes to the system, that’s not going to happen. It’s unfair and unjust.”

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said that as business rates are the largest burden small independent retailers have to bear, he would welcome any move that made the system fairer.

“Unfortunately, this Government proposal would be time-consuming, complex and would add yet more costs to the businesses of independent retailers as some may prefer to enlist the support of professionals to complete these self-assessment forms,” he said.

A spokesperson for the ACS said it had similar concerns. “Any move toward self-assessment of business rates for small businesses would impose significant time burdens on retailers that already work long hours and do not have time to spend measuring up their store,” they said.

“We believe that rates reform is necessary, but should be delivered by increasing reliefs for small businesses and addressing the unfairness in rating systems for other business types like forecourt stores and ATMs.”


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