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Autumn statement? More of an autumn reiteration

Well, Philip Hammond’s first Autumn statement is in the bag but judging by the commentators and column inches so far there wasn’t much to pick over that hadn’t already been leaked ahead of yesterday announcements.

Infrastructure investment, a bit of tinkering with benefit percentages and a nod to the North that, nope, we’re not forgotten about.

On the business rates front? I’m not even sure it is worth writing a full column on to be honest but, regardless, here’s a short summary that could save you a few minutes of online trawling.

Removing many small businesses from rating with enhancements to the Small Business Rates Relief scheme was one notable change, making the SBRR permanent from April 2017 rather than just another extension.

In future, all qualifying small businesses (i.e. those occupying only one property in England) will pay no rates if the Rateable Value is £12,000 or less, doubled from the current threshold. Relief on a sliding scale will be available for RVs up to £15,000.

Those with assessments up to £51,000 will pay rates based on the small UBR multiplier – avoiding a 1.3p UBR supplement paid by large properties. The Government estimates around 600,000 small businesses will pay no rates at all as from 2017.

This could mean that by taking so many smaller business out of the way, it frees up the system for larger businesses and that has led the Government to commit to more frequent revaluations, possibly every three years, but we don’t know when this will start.

There are still no signs that the Government is ready to slay the golden business rates goose. The vast amount of money and energy that has been pumped into lobbying the Government doesn’t seem to have gained any significant concessions from May’s administration as yet.

We did see the announcement in the earlier Budget that we would move from the inflation statistic used for the annual uprating of the UBR from RPI to CPI, which was widely welcomed, but again, we won’t feel any benefits until 2020. Everything does seem to feel a little back-loaded and pending rather than reformed at the moment.

So overall, no real meaty policy changes for me to pour over this time, but there is still plenty of time and column inches to devote to next year as we head towards the new rating year come 1 April.

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