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Tax on online purchases 'could save high streets'

The Government should urgently consider an online sales tax to help secure the future of the high street, and local retailers must do more to offer the personal interaction that the likes of Amazon cannot, MPs have said.

Dated policies and an unfair tax regime must be reformed to create an environment that will allow high streets and town centres to flourish in the future, a report published by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLG) has claimed.

Business rates are stacking the odds against high street retailers, with Amazon's bill amounting to around 0.7% of its UK turnover, while bricks-and-mortar stores are paying between 1.5% and 6.5%, it said.

The Government needs to go "further and faster" to "level the playing field" by considering a sales tax, an increase in VAT, an online sales tax, and "green taxes" on deliveries and packaging, the committee concluded, adding that each of the proposals had the potential for "real change" without requiring a complete overhaul of business tax.

However, MPs also said high street retailers must accept that they need to adapt and do more to offer what online cannot, focusing more on personal interactions and convenience.

Local authorities must also "get to grips with the fact that their town centres need to change" and create areas that are the "intersection of human life and activity", the HCLG report stressed.

It described the future for high streets and town centres as "increasingly bleak".

Belfast Telegraph