Retailers face “stealth tax” through Queen’s speech measures

The British Retail Consortium is warning that new powers given to local authorities amount to a “stealth tax”. The Business Rate Supplementary Bill, to be announced following the Queen’s speech today, (December 3) allows extra revenue to be raised directly from businesses.

The bill gives local authorities, for the first time, the power to charge businesses an additional supplement on top of their business rates in order to fund specific, local projects. The intention is that projects delivered would result in boosting businesses and economic development.

Retailers have widely criticised the plan, which the BRC has long-opposed. The retailers’ trade body claims that retailers already pay more than any other sector in business rates and supplements would add an extra £160m to their overall tax bills.

The BRC says it is “disappointed” safeguards have not been introduced in the bill, such as a compulsory business vote before it is enacted, and no clear framework to hold local authorities to account in developing and implementing the proposals.

BRC director General Stephen Robertson says: “At a time when retailers are being hit by rising costs and falling sales this Bill gives local authorities the power to clobber businesses with a hefty new stealth tax.”

Boots UK managing director Alex Gourlay says: “This is the wrong tax at the wrong time.”

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