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UK’s Labour would target online firms to help high street retailers

UK's Labour would target online firms to help high street retailers 1

BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party would impose higher taxes on online retailers to fund tax relief for bricks and mortar businesses, the party’s would-be finance minister Rachel Reeves will say on Monday, an advance copy of her speech shows.

Britain is not due to head to the polls until 2024 at the latest, but the opposition Labour Party is using its annual conference to present plans it hopes will win back traditional voters lost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the centre-right government spend hundreds of billions of pounds to prop up the economy, racking up debts that may take generations to pay off.

But polls show the crisis has made higher public spending more acceptable to voters, giving the left-leaning Labour Party a political opportunity to present itself as fiscally responsible without having to resort to spending cuts.

Reeves’ keynote address at the party conference in Brighton, southern England, will contain proposals for a freeze on the property-linked taxes that traditional businesses pay, funded by a temporary rise in a digital services tax aimed at online giants.

If in power, Labour said the digital services tax should rise to 12% from 2% in 2022/23 before being replaced by a global system of minimum taxes, which has already been agreed internationally.

The government has repeatedly set out its own plans to reform business rates, which are calculated based on the value of properties and seen as unfairly targetting retail and hospitality firms with high-value real estate.

Labour said it would go further by eventually abolishing the system and replacing it with a fairer scheme.

Reeves has also outlined a new set of fiscal rules and said that the wealthy – including landlords and shareholders – should bear more of the burden of paying for government spending.

(Reporting by William James; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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