Dragon’s Den star wades into Business Rates debate

Theo Paphitis, chairman of Ryman and former Dragon's Den stalwart didn't pull his punches when he called George Osborne's planned review of business rates an 'appalling PR stunt'.

Worth an estimated £200m and a business empire spanning retail, property, finance and consumer goods, he is entitled as much as the next businessman for a say – but why now?

Business groups and retailers in particular have been calling for an overhaul of the system for years and this month the Government finally launched its review. But that has failed to impress Mr Paphitis apparently. He is quoted as saying: "This Government came in five years ago. They had all the time in the world to deal with business rates and, of course, they announce it just as they're leaving. Just in time for the next Election."

He also added for good measure: "Don't forget this is the same Government that froze business rates at the last review, when if they hadn't they would have gone down. Business rates is the most unfair taxation ever. The fact is that this Government is not stupid. They know exactly what the problem is with the high streets and retail. The business rates system is practically identical to what it was in 1572!"

So now we get to the crux of the problem for Theo – it is affecting his bottom line, or the bottom line of the 350 store he has in his national portfolio. He continues: 'I've got stores where I've paid more in rates than rent. It's unfair because it's fixed. Everything else is flexible, but business rates – irrespective of the economy – are fixed. It is nonsense.

"This review will be just another publicity stunt – another sound bite. It's not going to be this Government that will have to deal with it, it will be whoever is elected."

Paphitis would also like to see online retailers taxed. 'It's not fair otherwise,' he says. 'It's absolutely ludicrous that because you're online you don't pay business rates.

"And if there's a proper review they will have to include the likes of Amazon and everybody else. They have to pay their fair share. In 1572 I'm not sure anyone worked out we would have Click & Collect or delivery to your door."

He has some interesting points to make but none that haven't been aired already by lesser known businessmen. Even if his article didn't have Osbourne quaking over his morning coffee, Paphitis still managed to get no less than 14 plugs in the one article for his businesses so still not a bad morning's work for him.

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Not sure what is meant by "he is entitled as much as the next businessman for a say – but why now?". I would have thought that was obvious – Osborne has come out with the statement and Paphitis has responded. When else should he have responded?

By Ian Jones

"Don’t forget this is the same Government that froze business rates at the last review, when if they hadn’t they would have gone down." Not quite Mr. Paphitis! Osbo said that any change at revaluation would be fiscally neutral. Even if the RV had gone down then Osbo would simply have upped the multiplier to ensure the same money was coming in. So just because a hereditament RV went down it wouldn’t mean the overall rates bill would. In some cases it would in some it wouldn’t – it would depend on where along the point in regard to average RV reduction the particular hereditament sat. Agree, with him about the unfairness of not being able to rate predominantly online concerns. to be fair to Osbo the Rates review paper does highlight some overall rate alternatives based on revenue. But I doubt Paphitis would like this either. I also agree that this review has been too long in coming – absolutely no reason it couldn’t have happened sooner. Now, next stop – review of Council Tax please!

By Sceptic