A new survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has found that 80% of MPs believe the current system of business rates is "not fit for purpose and in need of fundamental reform".
The poll also found that 93% of MPs agree that "reform of business rates is an important area for the future success of the high street and town centres" – indicating that there is a cross-party consensus on the need for reform. The BRC is calling on party leaders to sign up to reform in the run up the 2015 General Election.
As part of its campaign for a complete overhaul of the business rates system by 2017, the BRC has published its Manifesto Milestones. This follows the publication of a report, Road to Reform, in February this year.
Since then, the BRC has consulted with other business sectors, including manufacturing, and with groups representing small businesses in order to demonstrate that the business rate system is not just a retail problem but a problem affecting all businesses.
Its latest report calls on all political parties to commit to fundamental reform of business rates. The BRC says those parties that make this commitment will win broad support from businesses of all sizes across industries.
The BRC is proposing that the total amount of business rates should be reduced, business rates should flex with overall economic performance, as other taxes do, business rates should be shared equitably across the economy, and the system should have positive incentives to encourage energy efficiency.
Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC said: "It is no longer an option to say that fundamental reform is too difficult or complicated – that particular ship has sailed. The challenge for politicians is to show us all how they are going to embrace the task of reform and deliver, with us, a system that is fit for the 21st century."
Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North and a member of the All Party Retail Group, said: "The present business rates system is archaic and flawed. Often business rates exceed rents and are not linked to business performance. The government has eased rates for many small business but these measures are only temporary fixes. We need structural reform."