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ACS outlines business rates priorities for local shops

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has responded to the second part of the HM Treasury’s fundamental review of business rates in England, outlining the key measures needed to ensure that the system supports local shops’ ability to invest and continue to provide their communities with essential products and services.

The second part of the review focused on valuations, appeals, the administration of business rates and alternatives to business rates.

In its submission ACS made a number of key recommendations, including:
• Speed up appeals outcomes by shortening statutory timeframes for the VOA to respond to checks and challenges and improving the transparency of data used to inform valuations.
• Incentivise investment by allowing ratepayers to recoup the costs of investment before business rates bills increase, similar to the Scottish Business Growth Accelerator Scheme.
• Simplify the valuation process to reduce pressure on VOA resources and allow focus on valuing owner-occupied properties.
• Introduce an Online Sales Levy or an alternative rating methodology for online distribution warehouses to account for the digital economy.

Figures from the ACS Voice of Local Shops Survey, conducted in August 2020, have shown that as a result of Government support measures like the business rates holiday and other grants, 42% of retailers have been able to keep their store open when it otherwise would have had to close.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “Local shops are a lifeline for the communities that they serve and this has been particularly evident during the Covid-19 crisis and the support that has been provided to retailers through the pandemic has been paramount in ensuring that they can continue to feed their communities safely and effectively.

“The business rates system of the future should incentivise investment rather than penalising it, be simpler, easier and cheaper to administer, and be fairer in distributing the business rates burden across all types of businesses trading online and from physical spaces.

“More immediately, we are calling on the Government to continue to provide support to retailers, beyond April 2021, to prevent a spike in their business costs which would negatively impact local shops’ ability to provide essential products and services to their customers and undermine economic recovery. ”