Former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King has joined calls to replace business rates with a tax on e-commerce giants.
It comes after news that Amazon had paid just £3.8 million more in corporation tax over 2020 despite sales surging by £1.9 billion.
In a Times interview, King argued that taxing online deliveries would prompt customers to “click and collect” orders from local shops, providing a boost to the high street.
The move should be dubbed “The High Street Protection Tax” because the public are willing to pay for worthy causes, he said.
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It recalls Boris Johnson’s recent attempts to rebrand the 1.25 per cent National Insurance hike as a “health and social care levy”.
Experts believe that scrapping business rates in favour of a sales tax would help smaller shops tackle the debt they have built up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a July report, ex-Iceland head Bill Grimsey recommended a two per cent online sales tax to prevent a wave of high street closures.
Elsewhere in his interview, King criticised Morrisons’ “bizarre shadow box” with private equity buyers, saying its management “didn’t have any line of sight”.
The Big 4 grocer’s board recommended a £6.3 billion bid from Fortress to its shareholders in July, before swapping to a £7 billion bid from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice the following month.
“It’s very unusual to get the flip-flopping of recommendations that you’ve seen at Morrisons,” King said.
The Takeover Panel plans to end the supermarket’s “great uncertainty” with an auction between the buyout firms in the coming weeks.
King said that half of the Morrisons board should have focused on the bid, with the rest running day-to-day operations, as Sainsbury’s did in 2007 when it was targeted by CVC Capital.
Last week, Morrisons boss David Potts insisted that executives were not distracted by the bidding war as pre-tax profits plummeted by over 43 per cent.