Mandy Rice Davies Moment – Landlord Against Business Rates

Mandy Rice Davies was the girl no better than she should be who when asked why one of her possible clientele insisted he’d never met her replied “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?” This now being a useful phrase to describe the behaviour of so many.

Like this landlord insisting that really, people who don’t employ landlords really should be paying more tax:

One of Britain’s most high-profile retail landlords has backed calls for higher taxes on online retailers to relieve the pressures of the “out of date” business rates regime on the country’s struggling high streets.

Brian Bickell, chief executive of Carnaby Street owner Shaftesbury, called for a “level playing field” between shops and online shopping websites such as Amazon, which typically occupy much cheaper property and pay much less in rates as a result.

The thing to understand is that business rates are incident upon that landlord. There’s a price a retailer is willing to pay for a certain location. How that price is split between the landlord and the taxman is of no interest to the retailer. That willing price is that willing price. We do know this too – a rates holiday in business enterprise zones led to rents rising.

So, the property tax burden falls upon the landlord, it’s a reduction in the rent he can achieve. People not using high street locations, instead industrial estates around the back, is also a reduction in his rents. So, obviously enough, campaign to have rents higher – by reducing business rates – and back street rents lower by increasing the taxation upon those using them. Or even, a turnover tax, something that won’t be incident upon landlords at all.

This isn’t, therefore, a call to save the high street, it’s a call by a landlord to tax other people, not landlords. At which point he can go boil his head of course.

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That it would be a more “level playing field” is the latest argument for higher taxation, ensnaring not just a British landlord but Walmart, and recently granted by the US Supreme Court, in a nuanced ruling about the definition of a seller’s “nexus” to a customer’s state.

The legislature of New Hampshire has been in a relative frenzy trying to give sellers who located here because of our lack of a sales tax a legal excuse for not charging mail-order customers their own state’s tax.


As the Sissons and Brown 2011 study of enterprise zones found: the boost to growth came not from the tax incentives but from the liberalisation of planning.


As I said on “Tim Worstall”, Mr Bickell is the landlord equivalent of the aristocrat who had mumps so wasn’t tempted by Mandy. Shaftesbury doesn’t compete, to any noticeable extent with Amazon.
There is an arguable case that rates should be regularly updated every year to reflect the rack rent which would reduce the excess profits Amazon gains from its warehouses. There are valid arguments against (probably yearly is too often) but blaming Mr Bickell isn’t one of them.


Ah! but “there is an arguable case” that your own tax rates should go up every year, as you may have “excess” cash and I could spend it more effectively than you.

Now, “Tim Worstall” is now a TV show? Or a stage play?

Chester Draws
Chester Draws

Amazon doesn’t make “excess profits”, provided you allow for its size. In fact it’s only just started making any profit at all.

It makes some $8 billion. Apple makes $350 b.

I accept that is deliberate, but Amazon can’t be accused of making too much. Not yet anyway.