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    Retail’s top bosses demand fairer tax structure

    (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

    Retail, despite being one of the biggest employer in the country, has been taken for granted, boss of Britain’s one of the biggest retailer has said, calling for a “fairer tax structure and a level playing field”.

    Andy Higginson, the chairman of JD Sports and of the British Retail Consortium, said the industry was being taken for granted and urged ministers to listen to the industry’s calls for a fairer tax structure.

    “We are huge contributors to the taxpayer and we employ a lot of people up and down the country,” he said at a retail conference last week. “All we ask is that we can compete on a level playing field,” he said, calling for a reform of the “medieval” business rates system.

    He said there also needed to be more common sense about labour legislation, such as next month’s increase to the national minimum wage. Retailers have warned that the increase in the minimum wage, at the same time as commercial property taxes are to rise by £1.6 billion, will feed through into more sustained inflation and hamper investment, growth and jobs across the industry.

    Speaking at a conference last week, Higginson told delegates that he was “frustrated” that no government parties were “articulating a vision about how Britain will compete” before the general election, which must be held by January.

    Alex Baldock, chief executive of Currys, has also raised the issue of rates, saying “this rates increase is very ill-advised and it’s not going to have positive effects”, The Times reported.

    Jeremy Hunt announced a freeze for the small business multiplier, which is used to calculate the final business rate bill, from next month in his autumn statement but he uprated the standard multiplier by September’s consumer prices index figure of 6.7 per cent, from 51.2p to 54.6p, after it had been frozen for three years. The increase will apply to businesses with a rateable value above £51,000 and as a result will affect retailers, restaurants and pubs in expensive high street locations disproportionately.

    An HM Treasury spokesman said: “We recognise the contribution that retail makes to the UK economy, which is why we are extending the 75 per cent reduction in their business rates bills into next year as well as delivering on our review of business rates to make the system more responsive and remove barriers to investment.”

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