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Tax: Small Businesses

Volume 639: debated on Tuesday 17 April 2018

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The Government are bearing down tirelessly on the tax burden on businesses of all sizes, reducing corporation tax from 28% for large companies in 2010 to 19% today, and for small businesses from 21% to 19%. We will go still further, reducing the burden to 17% by 2020. For unincorporated businesses, we are, of course, increasing the personal allowance, in the previous Budget, to £11,850. That will increase further to £12,500 in 2020—further relief to many small businesses.

I thank the Minister for that encouraging answer. Businesses are, of course, unpaid tax collectors for the Exchequer and the Federation of Small Businesses recently estimated that businesses spend, on average, three working weeks a year on tax compliance. Is there anything further that the Minister can do to reduce that kind of expensive burden on businesses?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising the FSB’s report. I have not only read it, but met the FSB to discuss the report in detail. I highlight to the House two of its important recommendations: one is around better guidance on taxation, and I have tasked officials on that mission within HMRC; and the second is Making Tax Digital, which we are rolling out for VAT-registered companies in 2019. The report states that this

“presents an opportunity to simplify and speed up tax compliance.”

Is the Minister not concerned that the Office for Budget Responsibility report into welfare trends from January this year estimates that £1.5 billion of support for small businesses will be taken from them through the minimum income floor in universal credit? The Select Committee on Work and Pensions heard that 70% of small businesses currently last for 18 months, but that that will reduce to 20% for those on universal credit. Small businesses will be strangled at birth.

The hon. Lady neglects to mention the fact that small business confidence in the UK is now in positive territory for the first time in many years. We have gone to great lengths within the tax system, as I have just explained, to reduce the burden on small businesses. We rolled out £9 billion of business rates relief in the 2016 Budget and a further £2.3 billion of relief in the autumn Budget last year. We will continue to be on the side of small businesses.

A significant number of businesses in west Cornwall and the constituency of St Ives, which I represent, are facing extreme hardship because of business rate increases in 2017 and 2018. This is becoming a burden that is too great for them to bear. What immediate help can the Minister make available to these hard-working business owners?

As I have just identified, the Government have done a huge amount to reduce the burden of business rates. We recognise the important fact that these taxes need to be paid, irrespective of whether businesses are profitable or otherwise. That is why we have gone to such lengths, providing £9 billion of relief in 2016, including transitional relief for those facing the largest potential increases in business rates, and a further £2.3 billion by way of bringing forward by two years the change in the indexation of business rates from retail prices index to consumer prices index, saving businesses £2.3 billion over the next few years.

Business rates are really hitting businesses in York, particularly in the retail sector. This is having a huge impact on our city. On 8 March 2017, the Chancellor promised this House a complete review of business rates, yet we have only seen sticking plasters from the Government. When will that review begin?

The business rates review is being undertaken by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.