Nearly 20,000 jobs could be lost if a hike in business rates goes ahead as planned, a report has warned.
Non-domestic premises are currently being re-valued and new business rates come into force next year.
The study, commissioned by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), claims 19,300 jobs and 582 businesses in the retail sector could be wiped out over and above the losses already expected because of the recession.
Business rate payers have already been hit by last year's withdrawal of rate relief for empty properties, and a five per cent increase which came into effect at the start of April.
Taking all these factors into account, the BRC predicts the total increase in business rates could be as high as 30 per cent by 2012 after the new rates are enforced in April 2010.
The projections show the massive extra job loss would add £50 million onto the government's unemployment benefit bill in 2011 alone.
The retail sector is particularly susceptible to business rate increases because of its need for expensive, high-profile locations to attract customers.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: "Our report reveals the scale of the potential damage to jobs, businesses and the wider economy from these business rates increases.
"The irony is a third of what the chancellor gains in extra business rates will be lost to him as a reduced retail sector delivers lower amounts of other taxes and the benefits bill rises. Alistair Darling must use his Budget to announce an immediate freeze on all new business rate burdens and the reinstatement of empty property rates relief."