Chancellor suggests ‘staircase tax’ could be abolished

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13 Oct 2017

Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that the so-called ‘staircase tax’ could be abolished by the end of this year.

During a Treasury Select Committee hearing, the Chancellor admitted that the tax has been putting additional stress on businesses. He told the Committee that he is ‘certainly looking at’ the legislative steps that can be taken to abolish the tax.

Termed the ‘staircase tax’, businesses with offices on multiple floors of a commercial property have been receiving separate business rates bills for each floor they occupy, provided the areas separating the offices are communal. Some firms in England and Wales have seen their business rates rise as a result.

Business rates are calculated separately in Scotland using the rateable value, which is set by a local assessor, and the ‘poundage rate’, which is set by the Scottish government.

In a recent letter to Melissa Tatton, Chief Executive of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), Nicky Morgan, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, labelled the sending of backdated staircase tax bills to firms as ‘unfair’.  

In response, Ms Tatton revealed that, of the 11,000 rates that had to be reviewed, 5,500 firms saw their rateable value rise as a result of the staircase tax, 4,100 experienced an increase of less than 10%, and 1,400 saw a rise of more than 10%.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) had previously called for the staircase tax to be axed. The business group welcomed the Chancellor’s remarks: Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said: ‘The staircase tax has heaped misery on thousands of small businesses that happen to occupy split workspaces.

‘The Chancellor’s words will come as welcome relief to the desperate firms who had absolutely no idea that bill hikes were coming down the line.’