Autumn Budget 2021: will the government delay fundamental reform to business rates?

Bira has voiced concerns that the chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review, due to be announced later today, won’t do enough to support indies.

Rishi Sunak is expected to conclude a fundamental review of business rates in the budget, although major change to the system is not anticipated. Instead, experts say businesses can expect to see tweaks that will allow tax-free investments on eco-friendly building upgrades, such as solar panels.

Bira’s number one request is that business rates are permanently cut, reducing the burden on indies still struggling to recover from the pandemic. Industry insiders have also been pushing for an overhaul of the business rates system for a number of years.

However, Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre believe this request won’t be fulfilled: “It would appear that the government is again delaying fundamental reform to business rates – disappointing to say the least as they have had 12 months since the consultation on rates reform closed,” he says.

“While the Chancellor may not want to introduce wholesale reform, the least he can do is to re-introduce the retail discount. This scheme was already in place pre-covid, so bringing this back is not wholesale reform but doing what we had before.

“Something has to be done to ease the cumulative cost burden being faced by small retailers. Doing nothing is the clearest sign yet that the government is writing off physical retail.”

Bira is also concerned about the potential rise in the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Goodacre adds: “Responsible employers want to see employees earn a fair wage. We expected the NMW to increase above inflation as this was proposed by the low pay commission some time ago. However, we have again missed the opportunity to reduce the burden on employees by not increasing the national insurance allowance. Such a move would still allow employees to earn more whilst reducing the cost to employers.”

Ahead of the Autumn Statement, Bira has been encouraging its members and the wider independent retail sector to write to their MP on the matter of business rates.

Rishi Sunak will deliver the 2021 Autumn Budget alongside the Spending Review on Wednesday 27 October at around 12.30pm.

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