Budget 2020: what does it mean for hospitality?

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Budget 2020: what does it mean for hospitality?

Related tags: Restaurant

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a freeze in all alcohol duties and cuts to business rates for small hospitality firms in his first Budget today.

The Government also pledged a £30bn stimulus package to support businesses through the Coronavirus outbreak, which Sunak warned could have a “significant” short-term impact on the economy.

Alcohol tax

All alcohol duties have been frozen for only the second time in 20 years. The Chancellor also pledged to “continue to lobby the US government” to remove a “harmful tariff” on scotch whisky exports. He promised £1m to promote Scottish food and drink overseas.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said that while duty was not cut, the freeze was “reassuring” for the sector. Rising alcohol taxes have been linked to falling wine sales in restaurants​ and the British Beer and Pub Association warned an increase in beer prices could stifle growth in the pub sector.

Business rates

Hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 will pay no business rates over the next year.

There will also be a £3,000 cash grant available for the 700,000 smallest firms in the country who currently do not pay business rates.

The business rates discounts for pubs is also rising from £1,000 to £5,000.

But there was no relief for larger chains,​ which pay a greater proportion of the total rates bill, or restaurants with a rateable value above £51,000.

A wider review of the overall business rates system will be completed by the Autumn Budget later this year. 

Coronavirus loan

Temporary coronavirus business interruption loans will be available to small and medium-sized firms. "The government will offer a generous guarantee on those loans, covering up to 80% of losses, with no fees, so that banks can lend with confidence," said Sunak.

Sick pay

Current Coronavirus forecasts warn up to 20% of the workforce could be off sick at one time. Workers who fall ill or are advised to self-isolate will be eligible for statutory sick pay from day one rather than day four, as is currently the case. The Government will refund the cost of sick pay for up to 14 days for any business with less than 250 employees.

Statutory sick pay is paid by employers and is set at £94.25 a week, though businesses may pay more.

It will be made easier for self-employed and gig economy workers to access benefits if they are unable to work due to illness. 


The National Living Wage for workers aged over 25 will rise to almost £10.50 per hour by 2024.

The rate is increasing from £8.21 to £8.72 on 1 April. 

Plastic tax

A plastic packaging tax will come in to force in April 2022. Manufacturers and importers will be charged £200 per tonne on packaging made of less than 30% of recycled plastic

What was missing?

Once again there was no reduction in the 20% tourism VAT rate, despite a a long-running industry campaign and calls to cut the tax to promote spending in hospitality and leisure businesses. 

The Government stated in the last Budget in 2018 that VAT in Northern Ireland was “under review”. Campaigners argue the country is at a greater disadvantage compared to the Republic of Ireland's lower 13.5% rate. 

Related topics: Business & Legislation



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