Budget must support local shops, says NFRN
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which represents 16,000 independent newsagents and convenience stores, is urging Chancellor George Osborne to back small retailers by freezing duty on tobacco, alcohol and fuel, continuing to cut corporation tax and to ease the regulatory burden on small businesses. It is also calling for the government to increasing business rates by no more than inflation through the cutting of red tape.
NFRN National President Alan Smith said: "In less than nine days time George Osborne has the chance to show that he really does support small shopkeepers who are currently buckling under crippling overheads and fighting a losing battle against illicit tobacco and alcohol. We call on the Chancellor to do everything that he can to lighten the load on NFRN members."
To help reduce the financial burden on retailers, the NFRN is calling for business rates to increase by no more than inflation and for business and commercial rates to be reclassified so that retailers who live above their shops pay just one rate.
The NRFN said the freezing tobacco and alcohol duty would stop what it says is a growing number consumers buying from illegal sources, which is taking trade away from legitimate retailers and products that are duty paid.
"One in five cigarettes smoked are now either illicit or counterfeit which is putting at risk the livelihood of thousands of legitimate retailers,” explained Smith. "What’s more, while compliance among retailers refusing to sell to minors has never been higher, smugglers and counterfeiters do not care who they sell to, so increasing tobacco duty will drive tobacco sales further underground, making the products easier and cheaper for children to obtain."
To help tackle the illicit trade, the Federation said it would like to see additional funding given to HMRC to stamp out both tobacco and alcohol smuggling. It is also recommending the setting up of a registration scheme for wholesalers to help eliminate the introduction of non duty paid wine, beers and spirits to the market via rogue wholesalers.
In addition, the NFRN said that ministers should reject proposals to place tobacco products in plain packs, as it believes the move will make the sale of smuggled or counterfeit tobacco easier rather than deter people from buying and smoking tobacco.
Calling on the government to persist with its red tape challenge to reduce bureaucracy, Smith said: "Red tape places an unnecessary and unwelcome burden on small businesses and its reduction has been a priority for the NFRN since the coalition came into power.
"We were delighted when the government extended its one in, one out policy to one in, two out and more recently to see the scrapping, merging or simplifying of nearly 60 regulations on the running of a company and preparing and filing accounts.
"However, more could still be done and we call on George Osborne to continue to ease the regulatory burden on the independent retail trade."
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