So one of Anthony Ratcliffe’s solutions to the so-called problem of tax-evading online retailers is to hike the rates that the likes of Amazon pay on their warehouses on the grounds that “a company selling directly to the public from a warehouse is not warehousing but retailing” and thus the rates on that warehouse should be “reassessed at retail value”, with the increased revenue being reimbursed to local authorities.

Amazon

Amazon are just an example of ”a rapidly evolving digital age”

Source: Shutterstock/Hadrian

Following that logic, there should be a tax on every email that’s sent and the proceeds remitted to the postal and telephone companies being deprived of the revenue they would otherwise get if the messages were transmitted by letter or phone. While we’re at it, let’s tax all enquiries to online rating and planning databases and remit the proceeds to the many people who would otherwise be gainfully employed dealing with the thousands of enquiries these portals receive.

The outcome of Mr Ratcliffe’s proposal would be that customers of Amazon, and all the other online retailers he’s taking aim at, would end up paying more to cover the increased rating burden. Either that or they wouldn’t buy at all, with the resultant reduction in the company’s profits and all that means for its ability to support employment and feed its supply chain. And then, possibly, the firm would shift its distribution facilities to a more welcoming environment outside the UK.

We live in a rapidly evolving digital age and retail is just one activity that is radically changing. As well as keeping a lid on prices, it’s providing customers with an unprecedented ability to shop in a manner convenient to their lifestyles. Attempts to inhibit this form of consumer service by imposing tariffs such as increased rates are backward-looking and counterproductive.

Neil Swimer, director, Mosley Street Ventures