Re­tail­ers face £8bn bill when busi­ness rates re­sume in April

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Laura Onita

RE­TAIL­ERS have warned they face an £8bn hit af­ter the Chan­cel­lor failed to ex­tend a busi­ness rates hol­i­day, while air­lines pleaded for a cut in pas­sen­ger duty to help them sur­vive.

A 12-month pause on shops’ busi­ness rates was brought in when coro­n­avirus struck, giv­ing firms vi­tal breath­ing space af­ter they were forced to close their doors and re­opened to far lower foot­fall than nor­mal.

From April com­pa­nies will have to once again start pay­ing rates based on the rental value of prop­er­ties last as­sessed five years ago – many of which will be dis­portion­ately high due to a plunge in the value of high street real es­tate as shop­pers head on­line in­stead.

The Govern­ment has al­ready said that the next reval­u­a­tion will take place in 2023, mean­ing firms could be stuck with mas­sive bills for years.

Tom Ironside at the Bri­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium wel­comed Rishi Su­nak’s ad­di­tional sup­port for jobs, but warned that the re­newed work-from-home guid­ance is likely to keep cus­tomers away from shops and cafés and put them un­der fur­ther strain.

He said: “Re­tail is on a del­i­cate path to re­cov­ery. The loom­ing threat to this re­mains the £8bn [an­nual] busi­ness rates cliff-edge from April.

“Re­tail­ers need cer­tainty and the Chan­cel­lor must take ac­tion and bring down the busi­ness rates bur­den in or­der to avoid un­nec­es­sary job losses and shop clo­sures.”

The Trea­sury pointed out that re­tail sales re­turned to their pre-coro­n­avirus lev­els in Au­gust.

Separately Tim Alder­slade, the boss of trade body Air­lines UK, called for Covid test­ing at air­ports and said more tax sup­port is needed.

He said the in­dus­try will be un­able to re­cover as long as pas­sen­gers are made to quar­an­tine for two weeks af­ter en­ter­ing the UK. The in­dus­try is seek­ing help from mea­sures such as a 12-month waiver on pas­sen­ger duty.

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