Budget: Small shops get total exemption to business rates this year

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak poses with the red budget box outside his office in Downing Street in London, Britain March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has exempted small shops with a rateable value of less than £51,000 from paying business rates this year in his budget statement on Wednesday.

Sunak said: “Our manifesto promised that for shops, cinemas, restaurants, and music venues… with a rateable value of less than £51,000… we would increase their business rates Retail Discount to 50%.

“Today I can go further, and take the exceptional step, for this coming year, of abolishing their business rates altogether.”

Sunak extended the benefit, delivered as part of the measures in response to the coronavirus, to several other non-retail establishments.

He said: “There are tens of thousands of other businesses in the leisure and hospitality sectors, currently not covered by this policy. Museums, art galleries, and theatres; Caravan parks and gyms; Small hotels and B&Bs; sports clubs, night clubs; club houses, guest houses.

“They would not benefit from today’s measure – but they could be some of the hardest-hit. So for this year I have decided to extend the 100% retail discount to them as well.”

In addition, he announced a £3,000 grant for the smallest businesses that are eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief.

The chancellor said the government will bear the cost of sick pay due to coronavirus for small businesses.

“For businesses with fewer than 250 employees… I have decided that the cost of providing Statutory Sick Pay to any employee off work due to coronavirus… will, for up to 14 days, be met by the Government in full. That could provide over £2 billion for up to 2 million businesses.”

Sunak said the “extraordinary measures” represent support worth £7 billion for businesses. He also announced a £5 billion emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services.

Other measures announced in the budget include:

  • Increasing Employee National Insurance Contributions tax threshold from £8,632 to £9,500
  • Increasing the employment allowance to £4,000
  • Freezing duty rates on beer, spirits cider and wine
  • Freezing duty rates on fuel
  • Duty rates on tobacco to increase by RPI + 2%, with the rate on hand rolling tobacco rising by RPI + 6% this year
  • Increased resources for Trading Standards and HMRC to combat the illicit tobacco trade, including the creation of a UK-wide HMRC intelligence sharing hub