The Queen’s Speech on December 19, 2019, included the promise to ease the rates burden for the high street.
The 50% tax break applies to businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 and comes into force in April 2020, with an overhaul of the rates system promised in the March 2020 budget.
The discount will benefit dealers in certain parts of London and in other cities and towns but is unlikely to impact those dealers with premises in exclusive areas such as London’s Mayfair district.
Trade body leaders welcomed the move, which is a boost on the previous Tory government’s temporary 30% discount reprieve on business rates in 2018.
“The revaluation of business rates [in the past 10 years] has been one of the principal causes of the collapse of high street retail,” said Michael Cohen, chairman of BADA.
“It can only be a good thing that the government has now recognised that the policy of increasing business rates was regressive and destructive to small businesses.”
Christopher Battiscombe, director general of the Society of London Art Dealers (SLAD), said he was “delighted” at the reduction in rates for small businesses.
“The huge increase in business rates has been of considerable concern for many of our members and I hope that they will be able to benefit from the new proposals,” he added.
Meanwhile dealers in Cecil Court, London, reacted with delight at the Queen’s Speech pledge.
“This is good news,” said Tim Bryars of bookseller Bryars & Bryars. “I have been campaigning on this issue for over 10 years now.
“The immediate reduction in business rates is great for me, but as the threshold is £51,000 I am well aware that many of my neighbours in London – for example those trading on nearby Charing Cross Road – will still be paying full whack.”
Bryars added: “I am far more excited about the complete overhaul to be announced in March.”
Freya Simms, chief executive of LAPADA, also added a note of caution.
She described the spring discount and the promise of more frequent revaluation as “an early Christmas gift for LAPADA’s members, as is”.
However, she deemed the measure as “a short-term plaster on a long-standing issue” and is hoping for further reform.
“We must focus on a bigger overhaul of the business rates system, providing stability and assurance to dealers who have suffered from the demise of the high street.”