Business rates reform – How will it affect you

For years businesses on the British high street have been calling for reforms to the business rates system.

The Chancellor has finally announced new measures in the Autumn Budget that he claims will reduce the burden of business rates in England by over £7 billion over the next five years.

The reforms are intended to make the business rates system “fairer, more responsive and more supportive of investment.”

Based on the conclusions of the Government’s review of business rates, which was published alongside the Budget, the reforms include six measures that seek to minimise the costs of business rates.

Here are the key points:

Temporary retail, hospitality and leisure discount – A new temporary business rates relief will be made available to eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties for 2022/23. Eligible properties will receive 50 per cent relief, up to a £110,000 per business cap. Critics have pointed out that the cap may limit the effectiveness of this relief for businesses with multiple sites.

The business rates multiplier – This will remain frozen for a second year, from 1 April 2022 until 31 March 2023. This means that the small business multiplier will be 49.9p (for businesses with a rateable value below £51,000) and the standard multiplier 51.2p (for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or more). Multiply your rateable value by your multiplier to show how much you will have to pay in business rates (before any relief is deducted).

Improvement relief – This will offer 12 months of relief from higher bills for occupiers where eligible improvements to an existing property increase the rateable value. The Government has said it will launch a consultation on this relief with it coming into effect in 2023.

Targeted business rate exemptions – Introduced from 1 April 2023 until 31 March 2035, these will support eligible plant and machinery used in onsite renewable energy generation and storage and offer a 100 per cent relief for eligible ‘heat networks’, as part of plans to decarbonise non-domestic buildings.

Revaluations – One of the key criticisms of the business rates system is the infrequency of revaluations. From 2023, the Government will increase the frequency of business rates revaluations so that they take place every three years instead of every five. This should ensure rateable values are more accurate and reflect the market better. The Government will provide additional funding to the Valuation Office Agency to support the delivery of the new revaluation cycle.

Transitional relief for small and medium-sized businesses and small business scheme extension – These schemes will be extended for another year and will restrict bill increases to 15 per cent for small properties (up to a rateable value of £20,000 or £28,000 in Greater London) and 25 per cent for medium properties (up to a rateable value of £100,000), subject to subsidy control limits.

What about the online sales tax (OST)?

Part of the earlier review looked at ways of implementing an OST to make the retail business space more competitive. At the moment the likes of Amazon benefit from selling the same goods as high street retailers but with lower business rates due to where their warehouses are located.

The OST proposals would look to address this imbalance by taxing goods sold online. In its report alongside the Autumn Budget, the Government said it will continue to explore the arguments for and against a UK-wide OST and will publish a consultation shortly.

If such a measure were introduced, the revenue generated from it would be used to reduce business rates for physical retailers in England.

If you are unsure how these reforms will affect your business costs you should speak with your accountant, as it may be possible to plan investments around the reliefs and exemptions that are introduced.

Link: Autumn Budget 2021

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