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    Autumn statement: Retailers welcome extension of business rates discounts

    (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

    In today’s Autumn Statement delivered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt MP, a series of measures have been announced to boost business investment, including the extension of the 75 per cent rates discount and the freezing of the small business rates multiplier.  

    The Chancellor also announced that 100 per cent capital allowances on qualifying plant and machinery investments (full expensing) will be made permanent.

    Retailers’ bodies have overall welcomed the autumn statement, describing it as “some wins, and some losses”.

    While extending the 75 per cent business rate relief and employers’ National Insurance relief for another year and a freeze on the small business multiplier are positives, Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) is disappointed by the lack of help with energy costs and tackling retail crime while Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) is concerned about another significant jump in the National Living Wage rate announced earlier today.

    National President Muntazir Dipoti said, “We are pleased that the Chancellor has taken on board our serious concerns about business rates, but our members are still struggling with extortionate energy bills.

    “Our costs are rising all the time, and when you factor in the increase in the minimum wage to £11.44 an hour, some small shops will inevitably have to consider whether their businesses are viable and sustainable.

    “It was also disappointing that there was no mention of any increase in public spending, especially on policing, at a time when shoplifting and attacks on shop staff have reached epidemic proportions.”

    ACS has, meanwhile, welcomed the Chancellor’s support for local shops by extending the 75 per cent business rates discount for retail and hospitality businesses through 2024-25.

    ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “We welcome the extension of the retail and hospitality reliefs on business rates, which will help thousands of retailers with the cost of trading during what remains an extremely challenging time. There remain fundamental issues with the business rates system that need to be addressed to provide fairness across the system in the long term, but today’s announcements will provide a much-needed boost to investment.”

    “Many of the smallest convenience stores who are already eligible for 100 per cent rates relief so won’t see a material change from these announcements. Local retailers will be more concerned about how to absorb the cost of another significant jump in the National Living Wage rate, without any help to offset this huge increase in wage costs, such as reducing the burden of Employer National Insurance Contributions,” Lowman continued.

    Additional measures announced in today’s Autumn Statement include:

    1. Alcohol duties, including beer, wine, cider and spirits, will be frozen until August 1 next year
    2. Employee National Insurance rate cut from 12 per cent to 10 per cent from January 6 2024
    3. Local authorities will be able to recover full costs of business planning applications to process applications quicker, or the application fee will be refunded
    4. Duty rates on hand rolling tobacco will rise by 10 per cent above the existing tobacco duty escalator
    5. Introducing a legal right for workers to require employers to pay into their existing pension pot 
    6. Class 2 National Insurance contributions for self-employed people abolished

    The Autumn Statement follows a Treasury announcement earlier this week about the National Living Wage rate for 2024, which will rise to £11.44 per hour from April and will apply to workers aged 21 and above.

    The full Autumn Statement document is available here

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