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AAT calls on government to overhaul current business rates system

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is calling on the government to overhaul the current business rates system, calling it “unfit for purpose” and citing its “negative impact” on businesses and the economy.

The association said immediate changes in the short term were needed, whilst a long term review was required to bring “wholesale reform”.

Responding to the Treasury Select Committee’s Inquiry into the impact of business rates, AAT has highlighted that the retail sector is suffering significant problems, with ever increasing rates in a highly competitive environment.

Successive years of changes to the existing system will cost the taxpayer £13bn between 2019-20 to 2023-4. AAT has made the following recommendations to combat some of the immediate problems:

  • To immediately move from revaluations every three years to annual revaluations, as take place in other countries such as Hong Kong and the Netherlands. This would provide increased certainty and accuracy for business whilst hugely reducing time consuming and costly appeals.
  • Plant and machinery should be immediately removed from business rates calculations. Including them represents a tax on manufacturing investment and arguably damages productivity by discouraging investment in new plant and machinery.
  • In the longer term, the government should establish a cross-party, consultative approach to agreeing a fairer, simpler alternative to business rates, using the forthcoming Treasury Select Committee report into this issue as a starting point for action. Issues beyond business impact should be considered too, including the amount of revenue to be generated, the ease of collection, and the level of political, as well as economic, acceptability.

Phil Hall, AAT head of public affairs and public policy, said: “The system is creaking at the seams, it’s a 20th Century system trying to deal with 21st Century problems and needs wholesale reform.

“A cross-party consensus on reform would maximise the chances of long-term success and recognises that irrespective of political persuasion, most politicians genuinely want what’s best for businesses, large and small. An outcome that allows businesses to thrive is generally good for employment, consumers, and the British economy.”

He added: “The forthcoming Treasury Select Committee report into this issue could therefore be used as a starting point for a complete overhaul.”

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