Tens of thousands of England’s retail, leisure and hospitality firms will not pay any business rates in the coming year, the chancellor has announced.
Companies with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the tax holiday, Rishi Sunak said.
The measure applies to firms including shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.
It is part of a package of “extraordinary” measures to support the UK economy in the face of disruption from the coronavirus outbreak.
“That is a tax cut worth over £1bn, saving each business up to £25,000,” Mr Sunak said.
Business rates are a tax on properties that are used for commercial purposes, and are charged based on an estimate of what it would cost to rent the property on the open market: the “rateable value”.
Mr Sunak described the business rates holiday as an “exceptional step” that would benefit museums, art galleries, theatres, caravan parks, gyms, small hotels, sports clubs and night clubs, all of whom will be hard hit if customers stay away to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The chancellor said the business rates system as a whole would be reviewed, with the conclusions published in the autumn. Firms in England have campaigned for several years for the system to be reformed, arguing it makes it hard for bricks and mortar retailers to compete with online rivals.
Business rates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are set by the devolved administrations.
More on Budget 2020
The head of retail and consumer at Pinsent Masons, Tom Leman, said the announcement would be “extremely welcome news” for small businesses.
“On the basis the coronavirus is not a long-term issue for these businesses, it is crucial that they have the liquidity to see them through the worst.
“This will definitely help the cause and hopefully see many of them come out the other side ready to benefit from the increased spending power prompted by the money people are currently saving on their discretionary spend.”
Larger retail and leisure chains are unlikely to benefit from the rates holiday. State aid rules include a cap on the amount of tax relief a business can claim over three years. Most large firms will have already reached the limit as a result of rates relief provided in previous years.
Other Budget measures to support small businesses included:
- Cash grants of £3,000 to very small businesses with rateable values below £15,000
- A “temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme” for banks to offer loans of up to £1.2m to support small and medium-sized businesses
- Businesses can reclaim the cost of providing Statutory Sick Pay to employees off work due to the coronavirus
As expected, Mr Sunak scrapped a planned cut to corporation tax. The rate of the tax will remain at 19% rather than falling to 17%.