Britain offers tax relief to restore "blighted town centres"
LONDON Dec 5 (Reuters) - Britain will attempt to re-invigorate its town centres with relief on business rates to encourage firms to re-occupy vacant properties, finance minister George Osborne said on Thursday.
In a budget statement to Parliament, Osborne said he would introduce a "re-occupation relief" that will halve business rates for new occupants of empty sites.
Business rates are taxes to help pay for local services, charged on most non-domestic properties, including shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Osborne said the measure would "get the vacant shops that blight too many town centres to open again."
Many British towns are still suffering the effects of the recession that hit the British economy in the wake of the global financial crisis.
According to the Local Data Company, Britain's shop vacancy rate was 14.1 percent in October.
Osborne also said that over the next two years every retail premises in England with a rateable value of up to 50,000 pounds will get a discount on business rates, worth 1,000 pounds.
As had been trailed prior to his statement Osborne capped the increase of business rates for all premises at 2 percent from next April. Previously businesses had been expecting rates to rise by 3.2 percent next year.
He will also allow firms to pay rates in 12 monthly instalments.
But Osborne stopped short of a full review of the business rates system, which retailers and politicians, including business minister Vince Cable have called for.
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