Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis has called for a £1.25 billion tax on products sold on the internet to combat the pressure bricks and mortar retailers are facing on the high street.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Lewis implored chancellor Philip Hammond to impose a two per cent charge, or so-called ‘Amazon tax’ on goods sold online.
Lewis said it is time to “shift the burden of raising the country’s income” away from store chains.
The Tesco boss pointed out that traditional retailers are now stuck between a rock and a hard place with rising costs and business rates, plus aggressive competition from online retailers.
Lewis believes the money raised should provide a tax break for retailers.
The call to arms is an unusual step for a chief executive, and one of the most drastic calls from the high street to the government to take action for the UK’s high streets.
It comes a week after business secretary Greg Clark told a fringe event at the Conservative party conference that business rates could change as “one way” of recognising the role played by high street retailers.
Clark said the Treasury is conducting a review of business rates, but added that he believes retail “makes a big contribution to the community, and to villages, towns and cities”.
Lewis noted that his proposal is “completely separate” to that of the governments’ digital service tax.
“Three years ago I talked about a potential lethal cocktail of pressures in the retail industry and now you are seeing that come to fruition,” Lewis said.
“The tax burden has reached the point where companies are going bust. Has the Government thought through what happens when retail starts to decline and if the job losses start to become significant?”