The ACS has called on the Government to make business rates fairer for the forecourt and convenience sector in its submission ahead of the 2017 Budget.
It has also responded to figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which forecast net business rates income to rise from £22.4bn in 2015-1016 to £23.5bn in 2016-17 and then 23.8bn in 2017-18.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said the current business rates system penalised rate-payers that wanted to invest in their store to improve their offering for customers.
“We want to see a rates system that incentivises investment and allows stores to offset investments against their rates bills,” he said.
Lowman also referred to research, published in the Times, which suggested that many internet distribution warehouses were set to see their rates bills fall as a result of the revaluation: “While the current business rates system provides relief for some of the smallest stores, one in three convenience store retailers are set to see their rates increase as a result of the revaluation,” he said.
“We do not believe the current system is fair, and have called on the Chancellor to look at whether the rates bills for internet distribution warehouses are appropriate when compared to their high street counterparts.”
The ACS is also extremely concerned about the proposed changes to the appeals system: “Under the current proposals, ratepayers that are successful in a challenge to their rates bill may still not receive any refund. This is wrong, and we need to see a system that is fair for those challenging their rates.”
Other measures recommended in the submission include:
• Extending the rateable value threshold for Rural Rate Relief to allow more petrol forecourt sites to qualify for support;
• Bring forward the change in the annual indexation of the business rates increase from RPI to CPI to 2018 instead of 2020, delivering an annual rates reduction of £370m;
• Review the turnover-based model for calculating business rates for forecourts and ATMs, and review the appropriateness of the rates bills of internet distribution warehouses compared to their high street counterparts.
ACS also called for more action to tackle the illicit trade in alcohol and tobacco which costs the Treasury over £3bn a year in lost revenue.
Lowman continued: “The illicit trade is currently having a significant detrimental impact on responsible retailers and the communities they trade in. While the government has taken measures to improve the situation through the introduction of the alcohol wholesaler registration scheme, there is still more to be done. We believe that the solution on the ground is simple – retailers caught selling illicit alcohol should lose their licence.”