A group of the largest property owning companies have called on the government to scrap or amend legislation covering business rates on empty properties in the pre-Budget report.

Companies began paying full rates on vacant properties for the first time this year, following an initial grace period. It has been criticised as an extra financial burden on an already struggling property sector.

Many companies and organisations outside the sector also own real estate, including pension funds. Local councils have suffered as they also pay tax on empty properties. Campaigners say the tax is stifling regeneration.

The letter to Gordon Brown has been signed by companies with a combined market capitalisation of £370bn.

These include companies from AstraZeneca and McDonald’s to Next, Tesco and Nokia, as well as Land Securities, British Land and Canary Wharf.

Financial Times