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Taxation of Online Sales

Volume 674: debated on Tuesday 24 March 2020

A change to the taxation of online sales would require careful consideration, as my hon. Friend is aware. Many high street retailers are moving more of their business online, and we want to help them to manage that transition, without increasing the costs for them or their customers. The business rates review that we have announced will work closely with stakeholders to consider this issue in more detail. Meanwhile, as my hon. Friend will be aware, the Government have taken significant steps to support our high streets, including huge cuts to business rates and the £3.6 billion towns fund.

Clearly, we are living through unprecedented times, and I want to say thank you to all the Treasury team for the incredible work they are doing—working throughout the night—to help businesses up and down the country. Many sectors will be hugely impacted by coronavirus, not least my home of North Norfolk. We are now seeing shops being shut on the high street—quite rightly so—and I just want the Minister to consider that they will be hit enormously. When we come out of this pandemic, a 2% or 3% VAT-style tax rise to help high streets would be very well considered and welcome. Let us just remember that our last great leader was Margaret Thatcher, who said that we are a nation of shopkeepers—let us help them.

Order. I think the hon. Gentleman ought not to take advantage. We are just starting. I think he has got the message.

I speak for all my colleagues in saying how grateful I am to my hon. Friend for his kind regards and wishes. Of course, all taxes are taken into account and monitored by the Treasury, and will be subject to consideration at future fiscal events. We are living through very unusual times. I hope my hon. Friend understands that the high street, which was under pressure years before the current outbreak, is something we have supported over a period of time, most recently with a comprehensive package of support. He will be aware of the specific measures we have taken to support eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties.

I thank the Minister and the Department for all they are doing for businesses at this time; it is much appreciated. Will the Minister further outline whether he has managed to close the loophole that enables massive companies such as Amazon to operate out of the UK yet pay little tax here? If not, what has been done to ensure that no one is exempt from paying appropriate tax in the UK if they trade in the UK?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. He will be aware that, in the Budget, we left in place our digital services tax, which is specifically designed to look at online marketplaces and other areas online that have user-generated content that needs to be appropriately taxed. We continue to pursue that tax.