Autumn Statement – business rates announcement gives major boost to the high street says Colliers

John Webber, Head of Rating, Colliers International. Copyright Nick Cunard / NCSM Media.

The Government seems finally to have listened to our concerns over business rates in its Autumn Statement today.” says John Webber Head of Business Rates at Colliers, “And at last provided a major shot in the arm for the high street.”

“The removal of the downward phasing of rates bills in particular will mean they will more accurately reflect the values of these properties.”

In today’s Budget the Chancellor announced that the government has recognised that businesses are facing significant inflationary pressures and set out a package of targeted support to help with business rates costs worth £13.6 billion over the next 5 years.

In particular:

  • The business rates multipliers will be frozen in 2023-24, at 49.9 pence (for small businesses) and 51.2 pence, preventing these from increasing in line with inflation? According to the government this is a tax cut worth £9.3 billion over the next five years and will support all ratepayers, large and small, and will mean bills are 6% lower than without the freeze, before any reliefs are applied.
  • Upward transitional relief caps will provide support to ratepayers facing large bill increases following the Revaluation, which is due to be announced on Monday. This £1.6 billion of support will be funded by the Exchequer rather than by limiting bill decreases, as at previous revaluations. The ‘upward caps’ will be 5%, 15% and 30%, respectively, for small, medium, and large properties in 2023-24, and will be applied before any other reliefs or supplements.
  • No downward transition for those businesses whose rateable value have decreased following the Revaluation . Instead, ratepayers will see reductions to their rate bills immediately. According to Colliers who have long been campaigning against downwards transition, this is a major boost for the retail sector. Colliers had estimated if implemented, downward transition would have cost the sector an extra £2.7 billion more in their rates bills during the three years of the list than they should have paid.
  • The current relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will be extended and increased- from 50% to 75% business rates relief up to £110,000 per business in 2023-24. The government has said around 230,000 RHL properties will be eligible to receive this increased support worth £2.1 billion.
  • There will be additional support provided for small businesses with bill increases for the smallest businesses losing eligibility or seeing reductions in SBRR or Rural Rate Relief (RRR) capped at £600 per year from 1 April 2023. The government says this support is worth over £500 million over the next 3 years and will protect over 80,000 small businesses who are losing some or all eligibility for relief. This means no small business losing eligibility for SBRR or RRR will see a bill increase of more than £50 per month in 2023-24.

In addition, the government has announced:

  • No Online Sales Tax (OST) – Following consultation, the government has decided not to introduce an OST reflecting concerns raised about an OST’s complexity and the risk of creating unintended distortion or unfair outcomes between different business models.
  • Business Rates – Improvement Relief – At Autumn Budget 2021 the government announced a new improvement relief to ensure ratepayers do not see an increase in their rates for 12 months as a result of making qualifying improvements to a property they occupy. This will now be introduced from April 2024 and will be available until 2028, at which point the government will review the measure.
  • English Local Authorities will be fully compensated for the loss of income as a result of these business rates measures and will receive new burdens funding for administrative and IT costs.

John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers said, “ It is with massive relief that the government has finally listened to us and other industry bodies about out-of-control business rates rises following the next Revaluation. By removing any downward transition, the government has finally recognised that the business rates system cannot be revenue neutral without causing significant hardship. Rates bills for those in the troubled retail and hospitality sectors should now reflect the economic situation and drop in rents that we have seen in the market. Freezing the multiplier is a big positive, as is capping rates rises. Businesses now will be able to sensibly plan ahead for 2023. “

The Government still needs to stick to its manifesto commitment of reducing the overall burden of business rates- but this is a step in the right direction and is hopefully a new chapter in the relationship with Government and Business going forward.”

“All we can hope for now is the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has correctly assessed the values– we will know next week !!”

“I take my hat off to the Government. This is a major boost to the high street and to businesses in general and a fair appreciation of the economic situation. It shows that our campaign on behalf of business has been worth it.“