From the business desk: hope on the horizon for the high street?

Business reporter Oli Poole
Business reporter Oli Poole
  • No major business surprises in Budget 2015
  • Google Tax hits the headlines
  • Tax no longer taxing?

THE FINAL Budget before May’s election brought no major surprises for businesses in the Herald and Gazette area – but is there hope on the horizon for the high street?

Terms of reference for the highly-anticipated business rates review have finally been announced, with the treasury recognising the need for a full structural review.

The review will report back to the next Budget and businesses will shortly be able to have their say on what should be done to bring the tax into the 21st century.

We already know the reforms will need to be fiscally neutral and the Government’s preference is to retain rates as a tax based on property values.

These two factors may restrict the scope of radical reform but ideas are being welcomed and are sure to be varied.

Elsewhere in the budget, perhaps among the happiest locally will be my managing director, after George Osborne announced his intention to consult on business rates relief for newspapers.

But further afield, large businesses may be in a less celebratory mood, with the unveiling of the aptly-named ‘Google Tax’.

The ‘Google Tax’ will target big businesses in an attempt to get them paying a ‘fairer share’ of tax.

This could well be a vote winner amongst the general public, following widespread media coverage of high-profile companies and their tax issues.

Starbucks was one such firm targeted for paying a minute amount of corporation tax during their time in the UK – albeit legally.

Hopefully the Government’s reforms will close legal loopholes and generate some much-needed funds for UK Plc.

Reading through the lengthy Budget document on Wednesday afternoon drew me to another announcement which, on a personal level, raised a smile.

Mr Osborne promises to make tax ‘easier’, abolishing class two national insurance contributions and the need for tax returns and introducing digital tax accounts.

On the face of it, these ideas sound like a step forward and may well have made my experience with the self assessment system in the past a bit less of a headache.

As ever, the devil is in the detail.

And finally, the Budget was broadly welcomed by local enterprise partnership Coast to Capital, which praised support for the delivery of ultrafast broadband to nearly all premises and rural areas.

I know this will come as relief to many businesses which have struggled with connectivity issues and it is absolutely right that good broadband should not be subject to a postcode lottery.

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