‘Medieval’ rates need to be changed, says Morrisons chairman

Morrisons chairman Andy Higginson accused the Government of being lazy over business rate reform

Morrisons chairman Andy Higginson accused the Government of being lazy over business rate reform

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The chairman of Morrisons has waded into the row over business rates, calling the system “medieval” and accusing the Government of laziness in tackling reform.

Andy Higginson, chairman of Morrisons, told The Sunday Telegraph that he believed business rates were “a medieval tax that have past its sell by date.”

Mr Higginson said the problem the industry faced in getting reform “is that it is a very easy tax to collect and so lazy governments, rather than face up to the need to reform, will always take the path of least resistance.”

His comments came after Mike Coupe, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, called for “fundamental reforms” to a system that will see internet giant Amazon have most of its bills cut while high street retailers are forced to stump up billions.

He said: “There is an advantage for those without bricks and mortar operations, so there’s a strong case for a level playing field in business rates and taxation more generally.”

The Government’s first rates overhaul in seven years, which comes into effect in April, has brought into sharp focus the tax discrepancy between businesses dependent on consumer facing properties and those that are not.

Business rates are pegged to property valuations so companies with properties concentrated in the South East and urban centres will be disproportionately impacted by the revaluation.

Business groups - including the British Retail Consortium and the CBI - signed a letter on Friday urging the Government to abandon the controversial rates reforms.

The Government claims the majority of firms will see a drop in rates or no change to their bills.

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