Debenhams, Sainsbury's and M&S among major retailers calling on chancellor to save high street

13 August 2019, 06:31 | Updated: 13 August 2019, 14:32

More than 50 major retailers are demanding the government reform the taxes charged on their shops.

Companies such as Debenhams, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer are asking Chancellor Sajid Javid for "fundamental" reforms to business rates to level the playing field against their online competitors.

It comes the day after new figures showed that more than one in ten shops lay empty on the high street, the most since 2015.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, which co-ordinated the open letter signed by bosses of major companies, described the current business rates system as "broken".

She said: "The fact that over 50 retail CEOs have come together on this issue should send a powerful message to government.

"Retail accounts for 5% of the economy yet pays 25% of all business rates - this disparity is damaging our high streets and harming the communities they support."

The letter also calls for a freeze in the business rates multiplier, which is set by the government and adjusted each year in line with inflation.

The government collected £25.7bn in business rate taxes for 2018-19, which amounted to 3.24% of its whole income.

The high street has come under pressure as more and more consumers move online. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that more than half of UK adults aged 65 and over are now shopping online.

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Meanwhile, Tesco has been quietly building up support for its plans to overhaul business rates, with finance chief Alan Stewart writing a series of letters to the bosses of rival retailers.

The boss of the UK's biggest supermarket, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, wants the government to cut business rates by 20% and make up the shortfall with a 2% levy on all online retail sales.