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Jul 3, 2013
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Topshop's Green calls for business rates shake-up

By
Reuters
Published
Jul 3, 2013

LONDON, England - Topshop billionaire Philip Green has joined the debate on the levying of local property taxes in Britain, arguing reform is crucial if traditional retailers are to compete fairly with pure online players.

Consumer spending generates about two-thirds of Britain's gross domestic product, but job insecurity and a squeeze on incomes has put many retailers under pressure.

A week after Justin King, chief executive of J Sainsbury, Britain's No. 3 grocer, labeled Britain's business rates system - which raises local taxes on commercial property - an "historical anachronism", Green called on the government to conduct an urgent review.

"To be able to compete with the online retailers, who don't have the same fixed costs, you've got some chance if you're not labored with all these additional costs," said the retail tycoon, owner of the Arcadia Group which includes high street names such as Topshop, BHS and Miss Selfridge.

"There has to be a proper review and we have to be valued fairly," he said on Tuesday after handing out graduation awards to students of the Fashion Retail Academy he founded eight years ago.

Business rates are taxes to help pay for local services, charged on most non-domestic properties, including shops, offices and factories. They are set by central government.

Britain's current business rates were implemented in 2010 based on property valuations carried out in 2008. They are also linked to annual inflation.

The government was due to carry out a revaluation in 2015 but this is now expected to be pushed back to 2017.

Green said the Arcadia Group's annual rates bill of about 150 million pounds ($228 million) would be 30-40 million pounds lower if reduced rentable values since 2008 were taken into account.

"To take a 2008 valuation, implemented in 2010, that's supposed to be reviewed in 2015, trying to move it to 2017 - it's sort of making the goal posts the size of the pitch," he said.

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