Hampshire businesses appeal to Chancellor for lower rates

Daily Echo: Chancellor George Osborne Chancellor George Osborne

HAMPSHIRE businesses are urging the Chancellor to give them a level playing field so that they can grow and prosper.

Ahead of his Autumn Statement later today, the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce is appealing to George Osborne to use it to tackle the rates burden for businesses.

An overhaul of the business rates system is something that the Chamber has been lobbying hard for because in its current state, they believe it is a “major barrier” to restricting growth, especially for small businesses.

Maureen Frost, executive director of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Along with the British Chambers of Commerce, we call on the Chancellor to make the valuation of commercial properties for business rates much fairer. Right now it is both draconian and inconsistent.

“We want to see assessments giving more relevance to the area in which the business operates rather than the broad-brush rental value criteria that has persisted for decades.

Business rates are payable whether or not a profit is made and we are now facing the divisive situation of central government rewarding the councils who collect business rates by allowing them to keep nearly half of the tax taken but only if they increase it year-on-year. That means businesses will effectively support more and more council services whether or not they are making a profit.”

She added that the Chancellor has a number of options to make the system fairer, including raising the threshold at which business rates become payable, increase Small Business Rate Relief, consider a rate freeze until economic conditions are better and end or reduce the rates on empty properties.

“Whatever the Chancellor decides to do, it’s time to lessen the burden so that businesses here have a level playing field and a fairer chance to grow and prosper.” And it looks as if the Chancellor may be ready to listen, with predictions ahead of his statement suggesting that while a complete reformation of the system may not be on the cards, a freeze on business rates is expected.

He is expected to confirm that rate rises will be limited to two per cent instead of being linked to inflation, following strong lobbying from a number of organisations.

David Cameron has also signalled that he is planning further action to reward marriage through the tax system, on the eve of the expected introduction of an allowance for some married couples.

Mr Osborne is expected to use his Autumn Statement to announce details of a transferable tax allowance worth £200 a year to an estimated four million couples from 2015, at a cost of £700 million.

Mr Cameron also restated his support for Mr Osborne’s plan to run the state budget on a surplus even after the deficit has been eliminated, which he is aiming to do by 2018.

The plan would effectively mean extending austerity measures until the end of the decade at least, and would make it more difficult for a future Conservative government to cut taxes.

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