Iceland boss calls for online sales levy to boost high street fightback

The head of frozen food retailer Iceland has called for a digital sales tax to help rejuvenate the main drag.

Managing Director Richard Walker called for the levy on online sales as part of a revision of the “obsolete and Victorian” business rates.

The call comes after Iceland was criticized for its decision to keep business rate relief for the past fiscal year – despite continuing to act as a major retailer during the lockdown periods.

At the start of the pandemic, the Chancellor announced a bank holiday with business rates for retailers for the year, but more than £ 2 billion in relief has been returned from key retailers who have seen higher customer demand.

Mr Walker told PA News Agency that the company was right to take advantage of the relief at the time, but it had not taken any extended tax relief announced by the government in February.

“We firmly believe that we made the right decision,” he said. “You look at some of the companies that paid it back like Asda and Sainsbury – they announced thousands of job cuts after that.

“This relief meant that we could keep jobs. That is what the sector was hired to do.” And we have actually been able to create jobs since then.

“Now we felt that no further assistance was needed, so the extension could not be used.”

The retail boss criticized the current business tariff system, which will resume from early July with discounts for some high street companies.

He said, “I think we need a digital sales tax and I’m saying that with a business with a really strong online business.

“You have to completely change the business rates as they are, but there has to be some form of realignment with Online or we will kill the main drag as it is.”

Iceland saw strong growth over the past year after rapidly expanding its online delivery business.

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