Budget live: UK freezes alcohol duties and abolishes business rates for small retailers

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer has frozen alcohol duties for spirit, wine and beer, and abolished business rates for the year for hundreds of thousands of small retailers and businesses in the hospitality sector.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who only took on the role last month, has cut a planned increase in duty across spirits, wine and beer, noting it was only the second time in 20 years that all alcohol duties had been frozen and reiterated the upcoming review of UK alcohol taxation that was unveiled during the Queen’s speech.

He also singled out the value of Scotch to the Scottish food and drink industry as he unveiled £1m of support package to promote Scottish food and drink oversees, along with a £10m R&D package to support distilleries going green.

He also promised the government would put pressure on the US administration to remove the harmful tariffs that were harming the industry.

“Duties Scotch is a crucial industry and our largest food and drink export. My Scottish colleagues have highlighted to me the impact the recent US tariffs are having, we will continue to lobby US government to remove these harmful tariffs,” he promised.

Stimulus to minimise economic impact of coronavirus (Covid-19)

Sunak today unveiled a £30 billion fiscal stimulus to get the UK through the economic impact of coronavirus. As part of the measures, he promised the government would refund Statutary Sick Pay (SSP) in full for two weeks for businesses who employed less than 250 people and that statutory sick pay would be paid to people who choose to self-isolate, even if they don’t have symptoms. A temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme’ is also being established to support small and medium-sized businesses.

He also abolished for a year business rates bills for businesses with a rateable value less than £51k, including those in the hospitality and leisure sectors as well as retailers, and unveiled a £3,000 grant for business that would not eligible for the small business rates relief.

“This is a £2bn cash injection direct to 700,000 of our smallest businesses,” Sunak told the House of Commons.

He also said that he would launch a fundamental review into business rates at the Autumn Budget.

He also raised the business rate discount for small pubs from £1,000 to £5,000, describing pubs as the centre of community life but saying that too many had closed over the last decade.

“We’ve already promised to introduce a business rate discount of £1,000 for small pubs but I’ve heard calls from many colleagues and right honourable members that we need to do more for pubs, esp given the possible impact of coronavirus on our pubs. Today, exceptionally for this year the business rate discount for pubs will not be £1000, it will be be £5.000,”

Other measures that will affect businesses include a commitment to boost the national living wage to £10.50 an hour by 2024, and the threshold for National Insurance will be increased next month to £9,500, up from £8,632.

Click below to read industry reaction to the Budget

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