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Is this actually a fundamental change at all?

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The Chancellor’s Devolution Revolution speech leaves big questions hanging in the air.

So uniform business rate and its multiplier will be abolished “entirely” yet it looks as though a new “national multiplier” will be introduced in its place. What is the effective difference? Logic says some benchmark has to be in place if local authorities are to be able to lower it locally while only having limited powers to raise it. Is this actually a fundamental change at all?

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive, British Independent Retailers Association

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive, British Independent Retailers Association

Authorities with elected mayors will be able to raise rates for infrastructure purposes, but unless we get a lot of mayors quickly it will be a challenge for this benefit to become widely available. What will be the environment for business improvement districts as the changes kick in?

The statement is basically about where the money goes, rather than how the tax is levied. A raft of temporary reliefs and discounts exists to smooth out some of the distortions in valuations and the tax burden which have built up in the 25 years since uniform business rate arrived, as evidenced by the detailed research that bira put forward in its submission to the second Treasury inquiry. Will all or some be renewed in April? Will charity shops lose their discount? Will the Treasury actually announce any kind of fundamental reform in the Autumn Statement?

Independent retailers represent two out of three shops across the country. They are anxious to know more - and fast - as they need to know how property taxes will affect their businesses across the next five years. And why is five years important beyond the scope of this announcement? Because it’s about the average length of most commercial leases nowadays, so anyone placing their bets on the future of their shops now and deciding whether to sign up for a renewal will need to be completely clear about the fundamental soundness of these reforms.

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