MP for York Central Rachael Maskell will lead a debate in Westminster tomorrow, calling for a reform of the business rates system.

Ms Maskell has been working with local businesses and traders and said the current system is harming business in the city, and putting jobs at risk.

She has worked with traders groups, who said they were concerned about competition from online traders and empty property tax loopholes, which are being exploited by some property owners so units are left dormant for long periods in high streets but letting property owners off the hook.

Ms Maskell said: “This is an extremely important issue that requires urgent action. As I held business meetings across York, all felt failed by the business rates system. The retail sector is struggling, and now our city centres is marked out by empty units. The Council, simply sticks window stickers over the shop windows to try and conceal this market failure.

“Retailers in high value retail areas like York pay the highest level of rates, whereas companies selling goods on the internet from warehouses in lower value areas pay the least. Amazon, the largest retail business in the UK pay just £1.4m in business rates. If they were to pay the same as small businesses in York, Amazon would be paying £61m in rates.”

Ms Maskell has worked with York Retail Forum who have been looking at alternatives to business rates, and suggested a new type of turnover tax, supplemented by specific support for some small businesses to create a level playing field.

Phil Pinder, chair of York Retail Forum, said: “The current business rates system has been played by every large business to the detriment of smaller independent business owners. A much fairer system would be a tax based on business turnover.

“It would be very easy to collect, every business - charities and voluntary organisations do this too - has to declare turnover for corporation tax. A simple one per cent levy would raise slightly more than the current business rates system. This would also have the equivalent of handing thousands to small business, who are the most likely to create new jobs and invest in their business.”