Tax online retailers to save High Streets?

With High Streets in trouble across the UK, the House of Commons Housing Communities and Local Government Committee has called on the government to raise taxes on online retailers they blame for the problem.

The Committee report said: “High street retailers are paying more than their fair share of tax, while online retailers are not contributing enough: we heard that Amazon UK’s business rates amounted to approximately 0.7 per cent of their UK turnover, while high street retailers are paying considerably more, with business rates as a proportion of turnover ranging from 1.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent.

“We recommend that the Government urgently assesses the main proposals that we received in evidence, including a sales tax, an increase in VAT, an online sales tax and ‘green taxes’ on deliveries and packaging, and make recommendations for change to provide fast relief to high street retailers.

“The revenue raised should be used to support the high streets in the following ways: A reduction in business rates for retailers in high streets and town centres; a 12-month holiday for high street retailers from rates increases which result from investments to improvements in property; and an increase in the funding available to local areas through the Future High Streets Fund.

While making this suggestion the House of Commons Committee did suggest that local government needs to revisit the way High Streets are used, from purely retail to other uses that foster social interaction, community spirit and local identity and characteristics. The way people shop is changing organically and they may well respond to repurposed High Streets.

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