Business rates: reversal of staircase tax welcome but retailers call for more reform


By Richard Walford

Good news that the Government is planning to reverse "staircase tax" which removed some business rates allowances for businesses operating on multiple floors within the same building. In the same announcement, the Government is looking to will refund small businesses who have missed out on rating relief due to operating out of multiple premises.

For many businesses, especially bricks and mortar retailers, these changes to business rates do not go far enough. Traditional retailers continue to pay a much greater proportion of business rates than their on line competitors who they consider do not operate on a level playing field. With 44 shops a week closing in the UK and the loss of over 15,000 retail premises over the last 7 years, many UK retailers feel that they are bearing the burden of an increasingly outdated taxation regime. There are also concerns that within this reduction is the loss of diversity in the range and different types of retail outlets which erodes the individuality and vibrancy of our towns and cities. Perhaps 2018 will see the Government making a New Year's resolution to do more to promote and protect retail?

The Government has published draft legislation to reverse the so-called ‘staircase tax’ which charged thousands of businesses occupying more than one adjoining floor in a building as if they were operating as separate companies. A Supreme Court ruling earlier this year meant that hundreds of businesses operating in adjoining units or rooms, that are accessed from a common corridor or staircase, were slapped with separate rate bills for each unit. On Friday, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said that those bills would now be written off. “The ‘staircase tax’ is an unfair rates hike for businesses. For years these businesses in adjoining units or rooms received one rates bill, but this ruling meant they now faced multiple bills for operating in an office linked by a communal lift or stairs,” he said.
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