Mr Hollinrake presented his bill calling for the abolition of business rates last month in the House of Commons. So far, there has been no Treasury response. But his conversations with retailers such as Tesco, B&Q and Screwfix have been positive, as has the response from the ACS, which represents convenience stores.
Mr Hollinrake described business rates as “designed for a bygone era a long time ago, when business went hand in hand with high street premises. Covid has quickly made that time seem even more distant”.
Getting rid of business rates would, at the same time “completely dispense with the convoluted business rate system, including revaluations, check, challenge, appeal, annual bills and debt collection”.
It would also, he said, “liberate” the thousands of people employed by the Valuation Office Agency needed for the convoluted system of revaluations, checks, challenges, appeals and debt collection.
Critics argue that increasing VAT to 23 per cent would hit the poor hardest and would just pass on what was paid in business rates on to the consumer. But Hollinrake argues that customers already indirectly pay for business rates, as operating costs are hidden inside prices paid for things.
Mr Hollinrake said: “Consumers pay all taxes, that’s the reality. In a competitive market, prices are driven down by competition down to the cost of capital and the cost of operation. That’s built into what a business can operate at in order to stay afloat. An online sales tax would still be ultimately be paid for by the consumer – there’s no difference. You’re just swapping one tax for another.”
Mr Hollinrake is not the only high-profile figure calling for business rates reform.
Last month Theo Paphitis, star of TV’s Dragon’s Den and owner of Ryman stationers, said he was “praying” that Rishi Sunak was listening about reform of business rates, which he called “the unfairest tax since the fifth century”.