Amazon warehouse

Retailers have debated a level playing field on tax between online and high-street operators

Plans to level the playing field on taxation between high-street retailers and online companies such as Amazon could drive companies out of the UK, ministers have warned.

A meeting with the Future High Streets Forum revealed ministers were loathe to change tax regimes as “any reform could be very complex and have unintended consequences, including operations moving out of the UK”.

The Forum - including Tesco and Boots as well as the BRC and the ACS - have been pressing the government for a potential major overhaul of the tax system. “Some sectors would like to see a move away from taxation based on property towards a system based on economic activity, with a close relationship between turnover, profit and business rates,” the document said. However, such a “turnover tax” would reduce stability for local authorities and add to “likelihood of avoidance.”

This week, Tesco and Sainsbury’s were among a raft of companies calling for a review of the business rates system at the ongoing inquiry by the Business Select Committee in the House of Commons, claiming it was no longer fit for purpose.