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Carmichael — ‘changes to online retail tax must benefit islanders’

Alistair Carmichael MP

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has raised concerns, today, Tuesday, about the UK Government’s plans for an online sales tax, stating his belief that any changes to taxation must address unfair delivery charges to the isles.

Highlighting the benefits to people in rural and island from online shopping, Mr Carmichael said that if such a tax was introduced, it should include reductions for retailers that offer the same delivery charges for the isles as the rest of the UK, in order to support island needs rather than penalising them.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said: “Online shopping offers a range of choice and opportunities for many of my constituents and others throughout the Highlands and Islands that they just can’t get from local shops.

“It often comes with the whammy of delivery charges that often make the actual purchase itself look small, or else a refusal to deliver completely. An online sales tax could be an opportunity to give a small tax break to those making online sales who deliver who deliver up a universal service, a single price across the whole country. Would the minister consider that along with his other considerations?”

Responding for the government, financial secretary to the treasury, Jesse Norman MP, said: “I’ll ask my officials to look more closely and to engage with him on the question. He will know that we have already introduced a digital services tax. We are open to these potential ideas, we will be looking very carefully at this area and intelligent and well-thought-out feedback is always welcome.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said: “I am glad that the minister gave a positive response on my point about fair delivery charges and shall be following up in writing. Whatever the government’s final decision on an online sales tax, we have been waiting far too long for a resolution to unfair charges for delivery to the isles. If there is to be a change in the tax regime then it should benefit islanders, not penalise us further.”