In an exclusive interview with The Morning Advertiser, he said a review of business rates will have to come as part of a wider tax review as any tax cuts for pubs will have to be replaced with revenue from taxes on other sectors.
Acknowledging the challenge that business rates present for pubs he said: “We’ve been quite clear that there is a desire to have a review of business rates but it has to be as part of a wider taxation review because there has to be a replacement of that taxation revenue from somewhere.”
Berry continued: “I am encouraged by the start the Government has made looking at forms of online taxation, what some people are calling the ‘Amazon tax’. I am also encouraged by the way the Government has started to look at the way our economy has changed and the huge, exciting opportunity of the online and digital economy and how that can be taxed in a reasonable and fair way.”
However, any development of this tax will have to be “done with international partners”, he added, because of the nature of digital businesses, which can relocate really quickly.
“It has to be an international effort to find out how we can tax that digital economy,” said Berry. “But I think that will provide the freedom to have a review and look at business rates in line with our manifesto commitment. You could say, business rates are an analogue tax in a digital age, to use a famous phrase by David Cameron. But there is an ongoing commitment, as well as what we’ve already done to look at ways in which we can support pubs and retailers who reply on properties to ply their trade from.”
The minister highlighted the steps the Government has taken on business rates. “We’ve doubled the small business rate relief and increased the value to £51,000 before the multiplier starts applying. And every pub with a rateable value under £100,000 gets a rate reduction of £1,000. In addition we’re moving from RPI to CPI. All of that is expensive. It’s been a big commitment by the Government. But it’s been acknowledge more generally, not just for pubs, the challenge business rates present to business.”
Pubs contribution acknowledged
Asked if pubs could expect to see some good news on business rates in this year’s Budget, Berry said he wouldn’t pre-judge the outcome.
However, he added: “I know that my colleagues in the Treasury acknowledge the huge contribution that pubs make to our community, which can be seen already from the reduction, and most recently the freezing, of beer duty and other duties. I’d like to see a cross Governmental commitment to supporting the pub industry.
“Pubs lie at the heart of communities, there will be no constituency in Britain that doesn’t have pubs. It is a truly national issue, they are a national asset, part of our community. And across Government we have to look at ways in which we can continue to support them.”
- Watch out for the full version of this interview, where the minister talks on Brexit, beer duty and VAT, coming in a print edition of The Morning Advertiser soon.