M&S boss slams ‘morally bankrupt’ online sales tax, saying ‘you cannot tax people back to shops’.

M&S boss Steve Rowe has slammed proposals for an online sales tax, describing them as ‘morally bankrupt’, adding that ‘you cannot tax people back to shops’.

The chief executive of Marks & Spencer condemned the suggested tax hike, saying it would disproportionately affect the public at a time when consumers already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

“Now, more than ever, we cannot overlook the potential impact on hard-pressed consumers who already swallow a sales tax through VAT,” Rowe wrote in a comment piece for The Mail On Sunday.

He pointed out that families – who are already facing a significant squeeze on their finances – will end up shouldering “a further tax on even essential items such as prescriptions, baby items and food staples”.

Rowe admitted there is a need for “urgent reform of an unfair and outdated” system that leaves bricks and mortar retailers at a disadvantage to ecommerce businesses with lower overheads.

But he added “another tax on an already overburdened sector is not the answer.

“The simple fact is, you cannot tax people back to shops. You need to invest and adapt.”

READ MORE: Majority of retailers in UK back online sales tax

Rowe also warned that implementing the proposed tax may ultimately do more harm than good to the very businesses it has been designed to help, saying it “will do nothing to help our shops”.

“Introducing yet another tax will simply mean retailers cut their cloth accordingly, starting with the least profitable parts of their business. In the case of multi-channel retailers this will sadly more often than not be high street stores, particularly in town centres already crying out for investment and jobs.”

He also spoke of his concern that, instead of ‘rebalancing’ the cost burden of business rates to the online players, introducing an online sales tax would instead “stifle the very innovation physical retail needs to compete in a digitalised era”.

A long-awaited consultation into the possible introduction of an online sales tax closed on Friday. Broadly supported by UK retail, it has been mooted as a way to redress the imbalance in operating costs between ecommerce and bricks and mortar retailers.

Supporters argue it would be an easy way to redress the unfair advantage enjoyed by online businesses that have drawn shoppers away from the high street.

Rowe’s latest statement continues to pit him against supermarket bosses who support the proposals, saying it will help them level the playing field with online rivals such as Amazon, who are making inroads into the grocery market.

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