Calls for the introduction of a new online sales tax have been growing louder and unsurprisingly online retailers are having none of it. They believe any additional tax burden imposed on their businesses would be detrimental for people, for jobs and investment.
In an open letter, signed by the CEOs of Ocado, Shop Direct, N Brown, Boden, Appliances Online and notonthehighstreet.com, the plans for the introduction of a new tax were branded as “nonsense”, as online retailers are overburdened as it is.
“Online retailers already pay tax on many fronts. Customers pay VAT while other taxes include fuel duties, employment taxes, corporation tax, as well as business rates on their warehouses and offices. Just because the online business model does not require as much property does not mean that other areas should be taxed more heavily,” the execs said. “A popular view has been that bricks and mortar retailers have a high tax burden whilst a few very large international online businesses pay a small amount of tax here, therefore the tax system for all online players – big and small, UK and international – should change. But this is a red herring, an issue of domicile not online retail.”
The retailers believe that a new online sales tax would kill entrepreneurial spirit, making it harder for small retailers to get started. It would also have a detrimental effect on supporting industries and exports abroad. They noted that SMEs would be hit by the unintended consequences of the law, along with people that buy stuff.
“The idea is vague and ill thought-out. Does it include just those retailers which operate online-only, or those with stores too? Should online travel agents be wary? Could it also capture online financial services providers? There is no logic to penalising companies that provide consumers the convenience, efficiency and value online shopping offers,” say the e-tail execs. “Online is a rare and precious success story for the UK and one that we should take pride in. We support our high street counterparts in their call for lower business rates, but hitting online businesses by replacing lost revenue with this type of tax will hamper growth, slow the economy, impact jobs and reduce investment whilst not achieving a significant uplift for the Treasury.”