Press Release: Business rates are contributing to the decline of British High Streets

Business rates are contributing to the decline of British High Streets

Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation
Press Release, August 2, 2021

New research from the Centre for Business Taxation demonstrates that relief from business rates could have a significant impact in slowing the decline of British High Streets. The study finds that vacancy rates in retail properties were reduced by around half as a result of Business Rates Retail Relief. This relief was introduced in 2019 and gives a one third reduction in business rates for occupied retail properties with a rateable value below a threshold of £51,000.

The results imply that further relief from business rates could – if properly designed – be a powerful policy tool to mitigate the decline of the UK High Street.

These results are from a new Centre for Business Taxation paper, “Tax and occupancy of business properties: Theory and evidence from UK business rates” by Ben Lockwood, Martin Simmler and Eddy Tam.

A summary of the paper is provided in a blog, Business Rates and the High Street.


Business rates are a recurrent tax on commercial property in England and Wales. The tax is levied on the occupier (or the owner if vacant) and based on the rateable value of the property. Rateable value is the open market rental value (currently on 1 April 2015) and is assessed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). 

The Centre for Business Taxation (CBT), established in 2005, is an independent multidisciplinary research centre which aims to promote effective policies for the taxation of business from its base in the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. The CBT undertakes and publishes research into the aims, practices and consequences of taxes which effect business.