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BRC calls for business rate freeze as retailers face £7bn bill

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is calling for a freeze on business rate increases as firms face a potential £7 billion bill under government proposals to increase levies.

According to the British Retail Consortium, increases in business rates and other associated charges will be based on rental values and retail price index inflation form last year, which the BRC said is unrepresentative of current market conditions.

The BRC added that the Business Rate Supplements Bill, would allow local authorities to charge businesses a supplement on top of existing business rates from 2010.

The BRC said that by 2011, annual annual business rate increases, the loss of empty property relief and business rate supplements could add £1.6bn to the £5.4bn already paid in business rates in the 2007 and 2008 financial year.

THe BRC called for an immediate freeze on all new business rate burdens and the reinstatement of empty property relief - giving businesses a rates discount on empty properties - which was scrapped last April.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Many retailers are struggling with the triple whammy of falling sales, crushed margins and rising costs. The government must revise plans to impose a range of extra burdens, which can only increase the pressure on retailers and destroy more of the UK’s three million retail jobs.”

The BRC said that retail was more property-dependent than other business sectors and therefore more exposed and more sensitive to property cost increases. Retailers pay 25% of business rates despite representing only 8% of Gross Domestic Product, according to the BRC.

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