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Business rates need urgent fix, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt told

Advocacy: Business tariffs need an urgent fix, says Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Corporate pricing reforms are ‘far off’ from what High Street has been promised, warn the country’s biggest retailers

  • Bosses slam tax changes, leaving brick-and-mortar stores facing high tax burden
  • Critics say the system unfairly punishes those in city centers
  • Online gamblers face lower bills

Corporate rate reforms are ‘a far cry’ from what was promised on the High Street, the country’s biggest retailers have warned.

Bosses at Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Currys have made changes to the tax, leaving brick-and-mortar stores still facing a high tax burden.

Business rates are applied to shops, pubs and other commercial properties according to their rental value.

Critics say the system unfairly punishes those with a physical presence in city centers, while online players face lower bills.

The government had promised a ‘fundamental’ review, but retailers said the changes so far were insufficient and warned the tax was ‘still strangling local economies’.

Advocacy: Business tariffs need an urgent fix, says Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Advocacy: Business tariffs need an urgent fix, says Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

M&S chief Stuart Machin said stores accounted for just over 5% of the economy but paid nearly a quarter of commercial tariffs, stifling investment and driving up prices.

Machin, 52, said the tax ‘cannot continue’ as it is, adding: ‘We welcomed the government’s rate freeze and the end of the downward transition last year, but it is time that ‘They are taking decisive action to protect the retail sector, create jobs, bring customers back and support communities.’

Alex Baldock, who runs Currys, said: “The system is outdated and punitive, and changes are needed to keep pace with a modern retail environment. We would like to see the government follow through on the promise of fundamental reform.

He added that while the recent changes were welcome, “there is still a long way to go.” Changes included the removal of a transition period allowing businesses to benefit from lower bills and more frequent reassessments.

And Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was praised last year for giving businesses £13.6billion in business rate support.

The British Retail Consortium said they were “essential steps”, but described them as “a long way off” from the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment in 2019.

Chief Helen Dickinson said: ‘The broken business pricing system is holding back investment, jobs and town centres.

Sainsbury’s chief financial officer Blathnaid Bergin said any changes aimed at reducing business bills would help lower prices and raise wages.

The government said it had provided “generous” support for business tariffs while its reforms had helped level the playing field between brick-and-mortar stores and online retail.

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