Bradford’s business leaders are backing calls for a full-scale reform of the business rates system.
Parliament’s business committee has called for a “wholesale review” of the system in a bid to boost ailing high streets.
In a new report, the MPs said a revised system for retailers could be based on sales levels rather than the rateable value of a property.
Committee chairman Adrian Bailey said: “Amongst the many challenges they face, business rates are the single biggest threat to the survival of retail businesses on the high street.
“Since the system was created the retail environment has changed beyond all recognition. A system of business taxation based on physical property is simply no longer appropriate in an increasingly online retail world.”
Val Summerscales, of Bradford Chamber of Trade, said she agreed there should be a fairer business rates system now shops were having to complete with online outlets.
She said: “We would like to see something that is fairer to the retail sector, and property values have never taken into account how much profits are generated.
“You could have a second-hand shop taking very little but paying the same business rate as a computer game shop next door taking a lot of money.”
Mike Cartwright, policy executive at Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said he too agreed the system needed urgent reform, and not just for retail businesses. But he gave a word of warning that any changes needed to be done in a way which did not leave the district out-of-pocket when the Government doled out the cash it collected.
He said: “The options for revision need careful scrutiny, but we back the need for a reform, made more urgent in recent years by online trading.”
And Councillor David Green, leader of Bradford Council, said he thought the idea of basing business rates on sales was potentially a good one, but it would need to be thought through carefully to avoid creating loopholes.
He said: “I think it has some merit, but as with any new idea, the devil will be in the detail. One of the advantages of bricks and mortar is that you can’t argue with it.
“What we have seen already is bigger firms avoiding corporation tax by claiming their products are sold from Ireland or Luxembourg or wherever.”
He suggested a hybrid scheme which took into account property price and profits.