A WINDFALL of up to £10,000 annually per store could give independent retailers in England a golden tax break against business rates.

So far, 70 of England’s principal local and regional authorities have expressed interest in copying the Northern Ireland Assembly by setting a levy of 8.5% of rates on supermarkets with a rateable value of more than £500,000.

This tax on big retailers could potentially be made possible through the Sustainable Communities Act, according to Local Works, the group behind the proposal.

Leeds City Council estimated it could raise £7.2m a year from such a charge, or £10,510 for each of the city’s 685 independent businesses.

Money raised would be used to finance extra business rate relief for small companies, as well as services and facilities that support independent shops and the wider community such as local buses.

Local Works’ Daniel Flanagan told Retail Express: “This levy will help to level the playing field between supermarkets and small independent retailers, providing much-needed revenue that can be spent helping local shops and improving local services.”

On the introduction of the tax in Northern Ireland last year, it was estimated that 76 supermarkets would pay the levy, raising £5m. So far, 8,000 small businesses have seen their business rates drop by 20%.

But in England the effects of a similar tax could be even greater. Here the levy would work on a case-by-case basis among different local authorities, depending on how much cash they could raise.

Bristol City Council estimated it could raise £3.3m annually, which equates to £3,745 for each of its 881 independent businesses.

Local Works is urging councils in England to pursue its proposal under the Sustainable Communities Act, which allows local communities to get help from Government.

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said any figures are hypothetical at this stage, but council officers are drafting a report for the executive board later this year.

A spokesman for Bristol City Council said there have been exploratory discussions between councillors and businesses about the proposal and that the full council voted to explore further.

He added that even if the levy were made legally possible, it would have to be “very carefully considered and tailored to meet local needs”.

 

Statistics on independent businesses supplied by the Local Data Company

Image: REX Features