Gerald Eve has called on the Chancellor to use Wednesday’s Budget to extend and expand the business rates holiday to include more sectors that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
It is widely expected that the rates holiday – in place from last April for retail, leisure and hospitality firms – will be extended beyond its scheduled finish at the end of March. But with a host of severely impacted sectors being omitted from the current scheme, Gerald Eve is urging the Chancellor to use the Budget to correct this error and support such businesses as they look to recover.
Impacted business sectors that were excluded from the original holiday but have faced huge hardship as a result of the pandemic include: suppliers to the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors; airports and wider aviation; and office occupiers where social distancing limits effective use of space. Vacant properties should also be exempt from rates to support landlords and investors looking to repurpose unviable assets.
Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at Gerald Eve, said: “The holiday has been a vital support for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, and we must hope that the anticipated extension is confirmed at the Budget for at least a further six months, but the omission of many hard-hit businesses from the scheme has been a major failing. The Chancellor must grasp this opportunity to extend business rates relief to these firms to give them the support they need as the UK enters the recovery phase. Too many otherwise viable businesses have already been lost; now is the time for the Government to show it will stand by its word to do whatever it takes.”
Apply the extended holiday automatically
A further call has been made to ensure that any extension of the holiday is automatically applied to rates bills, rather than adopting the application-based approach that is being put in place by the Scottish Government.
Jerry Schurder added: “Whichever firms are entitled to the rates holiday from April need to receive this benefit automatically rather than be forced to navigate an application based obstacle course. There are better ways available to ensure the holiday only benefits those companies that have truly been impacted by the pandemic. Forcing eligible firms to apply for an extended rates holiday will do nothing more than create a bureaucratic headache for both the businesses themselves and local authorities which would have to police any qualifying criteria, while delaying the speed at which the much-needed relief is received. Make the process automatic, and let the companies get on with their recovery.”