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Tax-free Shopping

Volume 747: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2024

20. What assessment he has made of the potential merits of reintroducing tax-free shopping for international visitors. (902077)

As set out at the spring Budget, we are considering the findings of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s review of the original costing of the withdrawal of tax-free shopping, alongside industry representations and broader data. The Government welcome further submissions from stakeholders in response to the OBR’s findings as we keep all taxes under review.

Last week, the OBR informed the Treasury Committee that it has not assessed the Treasury’s forecast that it would cost £900 million to extend tax-free shopping to EU visitors. The OBR has also failed to support the Treasury’s assumption that EU visitor behaviour and costs can be extrapolated from assessed non-EU data. The UK retail industry firmly believes that it will cost as little as £50 million to reintroduce tax-free shopping for tourists. As we mark English Tourism Week, is it not time that we had a full, independent review of the Treasury’s data on tax-free shopping?

I thank my hon. Friend for her consistent championing of tourism, particularly during English Tourism Week. It is not in the OBR’s remit to consider the effect of alternative policies and, as expanding tax-free shopping to EU visitors is not current Government policy, it has not considered that. However, the findings of the review will be useful in giving insights on the overall behavioural incentives of the policy, which will be relevant for both EU and non-EU populations. It is therefore right that the Government take time to consider the OBR’s findings along with other representations and within the context of broader data, as announced in the Budget.