RICS welcomes the announcement of a reduction in rates for those with a rateable income of £51,000 or less by a third until the new ratings list in 2021, with the reduction staring next year in 2019.
It should go some way to helping to ease the burden of small businesses, but again the Government has only looked to a quick fix solution aimed at the publicly struggling high street, yet the focus on retail premises negates that traditional high streets, together with other shopping locations form a relatively small part of the total non-domestic stock. This announcement aimed at small business also does not account for the large retailers where majority of retail staff work and whom are currently in the most trouble, and who also play a vital role in attracting customers to our high streets and shopping centres.
Their announcement of removing lavatories from the rating list, is also welcome, but with a highly complex system that also see properties facing bills for things such as cash machines, the business rates system needs more to unclog the pipes than relief in lavatories.
In 1990, when the present system was introduced, there were no rates supplements and three possible rate reliefs. Now there are around four possible rates supplements and at least thirteen possible rate reliefs, as well as potential Business Improvement District (BID) rates levies. The reliefs and supplements have grown in a piecemeal fashion and sometimes conflict one with another, particularly for smaller businesses. Even experienced professionals at times struggle to understand the system.
Added in to the complexity of possible reliefs from rates is that England’s non-domestic rates are some of the highest in the OECD, effectively a tax at 50%, and are one of the biggest costs businesses need to factor in, for this reason, business rates liabilities will always be subject to scrutiny and grievance.