Nearly 650,000 UK retail jobs lost since 2017

Almost 650,000 jobs have been lost in the UK retail sector over the past five years, according to new figures.

It comes as industry experts are urging the Prime Minister to be cautious about business tariff levels next year to protect the future of high streets across the UK.

The Center for Retail Research said 645,204 retail jobs had been lost and 72,580 stores closed across the UK in the five years since 2017.

This included 105,727 jobs lost last year as the continuation of the furlough scheme kept losses below previous years.

The stark figures come as high street businesses face a significant rise in business rates after receiving tax breaks during the pandemic.

In April 2023, a reassessment of around two million non-domestic properties for business rates in England will come into effect.

The corporate rate liability, the tax on UK commercial properties, is calculated based on the ‘taxable value’ of a property.

For the next revaluation, this will be the open market rental value on 1 April 2021, based on an estimate from the Valuation Office Agency, an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

While the reassessments don’t create extra money because they’re designed to be revenue-neutral, they do create winners and losers, generating significant changes in tax liabilities, experts said.

Over the past year, these changes will have resulted in significant bill reductions for some businesses and regions, but successive governments have imposed strict limits on bill reductions to contain costs.

The changes due to the pandemic and the associated financial support mean that some areas have benefited from bill reductions that would otherwise have been blocked by these limits.

Property adviser Altus Group said that under the previous scheme introduced when it was last reassessed in 2017, the retail sector would have been denied £1.28billion in tax cuts and refused to the northwest £611m of reduced bills.

Experts have warned that the upcoming reassessment should not limit the scale of cuts for certain areas.

Robert Hayton, UK Chairman of Altus Group, said: “Taking from these struggling sectors and regions, where rents have fallen significantly, would be reckless, giving them no breathing space to recover and rebuild.

“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul and it certainly doesn’t help level prosperity.”

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