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UK announces another £1.5bn rates relief for businesses

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Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
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Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said 'providing this extra support will get cash to businesses who need it most, quickly and fairly.' Photo: Reuters
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said 'providing this extra support will get cash to businesses who need it most, quickly and fairly.' Photo: Reuters

The UK's HM Treasury said on Thursday that businesses impacted by COVID-19 who have not yet been able to take advantage of the government's business rate relief will get a £1.5bn ($2bn) discount on their bills, as firms across the country struggle under the strain of lockdowns.

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said "providing this extra support will get cash to businesses who need it most, quickly and fairly."

The HMRC noted that allowing business rates appeals on the basis of a ‘material change in circumstances' (MCC) could have led to significant amounts of taxpayer support going to businesses who have been able to operate normally throughout the pandemic, or disproportionately benefitting particular regions like London.

"Many of those ineligible for reliefs have been appealing for discounts on their rates bills, arguing the pandemic represented a MCC," it added.

"By providing more targeted support than the business rates appeals system, our approach will help protect and support jobs in businesses across the country, providing a further boost as we reopen the economy, emerge from this crisis, and build back better," Sunak said.

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READ MORE: UK firms make plea for furlough and business rate relief extensions

The support package is for those who have been unable to benefit from the existing £16bn business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

Those sectors have not been paying any rates during the pandemic, as part of a 15 month-long relief which runs to the end of June this year.

The government will provide a £1.5bn pot that will be distributed according to which sectors have suffered most economically, rather than on the basis of falls in property values, ensuring the support is provided to businesses in England in the fastest and fairest way possible.

The pot will be allocated to local authorities based on the stock of properties in the area whose sectors have been affected by COVID-19.

It will then be up to local authorities to use their knowledge of the area that comes under them to make awards.

Earlier this month Sunak had said that the business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure firms will be extended until the end of June before shifting to a two-thirds discount for the rest of the year.

The holiday for the current financial year has cost around £11bn, although more than £2bn was handed back to the Treasury by supermarkets and other essential retailers which have traded throughout lockdown measures.

Meanwhile, some of Britain's biggest retailers including Tesco (TSCO.L) have urged the government to permanently cut rates if it wants brick and mortar stores to survive, as more people turn to online shopping amid the pandemic.

WATCH: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?