Forum gives a cautious welcome to the Chancellor’s announcement in greater devolution of business rates but was more encouraged by the infrastructure commission.
The idea of greater local devolution of business rates is a key element that Forum members have highlighted as the level of taxation on businesses is so high with little in return. 43 percent of our members would prefer business rates to be abolished and other commercial taxes to be increased although this is highly contentious with 19 percent strongly against such the suggestion.
A key issue is that tax is not paid by all businesses, with the proportion of businesses paying the rate diminishing as an increasing number of self-employed individuals are working from residential properties – many of whom enjoy commercial advantages over business rate payers. This in effect gives a tax incentive to online retailers and companies who outsource to countries where property taxation is lower.
As Forum Managing Director, Ian Cass pointed out “members want tax simplicity, not a postcode lottery. Business rates remain too high and do not offer good value for money.
“Previous research from the Forum suggested that 75 percent of their members were sceptical about the ability of local councils to work with local businesses to make good long-term decisions. This does put greater pressure on councils to provide small firms with value for money on what has now become a local tax at a time when there are considerable pressures on their council budgets.”