Ex-John Lewis boss calls for pureplay e-tailers to pay more tax

Andy Street, the former boss of John Lewis, has said Philip Hammond’s digital services tax should raise more revenue from online retailers.


Speaking at a Treasury committee evidence session on Tuesday, Andy Street, now mayor of the West Midlands, said the current business rates regime is preventing high streets from thriving.

“This system is past its sell-by-date,” Street told MPs on Tuesday. “It was designed in 1990 when businesses made money in a very different way.”

“I argue that the time of reliefs has passed and that you have to stand back and have a wholesale review of the balance between the different ways in which businesses are taxed,” he added.

The Treasury Committee is investigating how the business rates policy has changed over the past few years and the ways it is impacting business. Although it raises about £30 billion every year, the system has come under fire in recent times as the rise of online shopping has seen Britain’s high streets struggle to compete with cheaper online rivals.

UK chancellor Philip Hammond announced a special digital services tax, aimed primarily at US tech firms like Google, Amazon and Facebook, last year. Coming into force next year, the new tax is expected to raise about £400 million a year for the exchequer, however the Office for Budget Responsibility has suggested in reality it might raise just £30 million from each company.

Street also suggested creating free trade zones as a way to encourage investment back into town centres.

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