Digital services tax: introduction

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 12:15 pm, 11th June 2020

I appreciate that, of course. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for welcoming the principles behind this, as she is right to do. For the same reasons I described to my hon. Friends, I do not think it appropriate to think of this as in any sense delayed. We are at the forefront of a developing area of tax law. We have not thought it appropriate to wait for international procedures. I am sure that, on reflection, she would prefer that we not have waited, both because of the revenue generated for public services but also because we deem it important—I have no doubt that the Labour party feels the same way—to try to make progress in this important area, removing what we see as ineffective rules or improving the working of the rules within the tax code.

I think it is fair to say, without blowing the Government’s trumpet too hard, that whether it is the diverted profits tax, work on base erosion and profit-shifting, corporate interest restriction rules or, indeed, on private country-by-country reporting rules, the Government have been at the forefront of much of the most progressive tax changes of the past few years, which is entirely appropriate.

The hon. Lady raises the question about the relationship with high streets. No Member of Parliament does not feel the concern about the high street, because they go back to their constituencies every week and see the effects of change. It is important to be aware that this tax is about addressing changes, or the way in which the tax rules are not fully capturing the value that is being generated. The high street is a rapidly evolving entity, as has been pointed out. Many high street businesses—even quite small ones—have online businesses of their own, which are effective supplements to what they do. They will not be caught by this tax, because in many cases their activity will be too small. However, it is in those hybrid models, which are evolving, where I think much of the future of the high street may lie.

It is not by any means obvious that the effect of the pandemic has been solely to privilege the online versus the offline. Plenty of online businesses have been clobbered by the pandemic in a way that many offline businesses have as well.