"Forget Mary Portas and the Portas Pilots", says Jan Post, Managing Director of tax specialists the RIFT Group. "Let's get the taxman to spend some money advertising what tax breaks you can get instead . . ."
Mary Portas began as a shop window display designer, moved into fashion retail and then set up her own business to advise retailers. Her expertise is in building brands and buying and selling the goods and services that the British public most desire. The media refer to Mary Portas as "the shopping expert" but really she is a sales expert. As a finalist in the First Women Awards for 2013, in association with Lloyds Banking Group, and a passionate advocate for making sure we really do use the natural business skills that women possess, it's great that Mary Portas is fronting this scheme, however the whole concept is flawed.
The government has bought into the aura of her expertise, and launched a package of state support, initially allocating £100,000 to twelve high streets that could do with an awful lot of help. They have been dubbed the "Portas Pilots" with an accompanying reality TV programme of course.
There has been a lot of criticism that the scheme has placed too much emphasis on television, and too little on real policy to help the high street. But the government already has a tax relief scheme that can truly help commercial property owners. Portas probably knows nothing about it, but there again nor do 95% of shopkeepers.
Like much of the tax legislation, there is big government money used to advertise what will happen if you fail to pay your taxes, but a distinct lack of budget for promoting what you are entitled to claim. Capital allowances is just one example. Designed specifically to help shop owners (as well as other commercial property owners), it can give much needed tax relief, freeing up cash that could be used to invest in the business.
The cost of new construction, a fit-out project or refurbishment of an existing high street store is likely to include a significant proportion of costs that will qualify for tax relief. Eligible buildings expenditure for a retail fit-out for example, could be around 75% or more. Even better, 100% capital allowances can be obtained for expenditure on environmentally friendly technology such as energy or water saving systems. This would enable a shop owner to write off the whole capital cost against their profits in the year they spent it and get valuable tax relief which can improve cashflow. To learn more about what can be claimed visit www.riftcapitalallowances.com
£100,000 to help a high street in Wolverhampton won't go very far. Using that money to help shop owners understand the tax system to unlock relief to help their cashflow - that could make a difference.
Jan Post is shortlisted for the 2013 First Women Awards.
The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 12 June and is hosted by Real Business in association with Lloyds Banking Group.