'Internet giants should pay a new sales tax to fund support for struggling high street shops, the boss of Tesco demands today.
Dave Lewis warned that the ‘unsustainable’ business rates system was pushing bricks-and-mortar retailers across the country to breaking point.
Many shops are hit with crippling bills on their properties while battling competition from online rivals who pay much less.
Writing in the Mail, Mr Lewis called for these high street stores to get a 20 per cent reduction on their business rates, to be paid for with a 2 per cent levy on online retail sales. His demand comes as a report today finds the level of vacant shop units has hit a four-year high.
The Mail’s Save Our High Streets campaign has called for business rates to be replaced with a fairer system. It has also called for large overseas companies to pay their fair share of tax, and for cuts to car parking charges in town centres.
Businesses pay rates based on an estimate of what their property would cost to rent for a year. Mr Lewis said a 2 per cent levy on internet sales – which Tesco and other big brands would also pay on their online businesses – could raise £1.5 billion, funding a rates cut at no extra cost to the Treasury. He dismissed concerns the new tax could cause prices to go up and insisted Tesco – which employs more than 300,000 staff in the UK – would ‘not pass a penny of it’ on to its customers.
He said reform of business rates would reduce pressure on small shops and mean the taxes they face are fairer.
‘Billions of pounds have shifted online, but the rates system was never devised to account for this. Because the bill is linked to property – not profit – shops struggling to keep the doors open have to pay up, while larger online businesses pay just a fraction,’ he said.'
Read more: Tax web giants to save the high street: Tesco boss demands a 20% business rates cut for struggling shops - funded by a levy on online sales
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30 April 2019
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