In an attempt to help protect high street retailers from the challenge posed by online retailers (particularly in the context of the coronavirus pandemic), the Treasury has suggested that it is considering the introduction of an online sales tax. The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that 37% of British respondents support and 31% oppose the introduction of an online sales tax.
Remarkably, the levels of support and opposition are broadly similar between those who voted for the Conservatives and for Labour in 2019: 43% of 2019 Conservative voters and 38% of 2019 Labour voters would support the introduction of an online sales tax, compared to 30% of Conservative and 32% of Labour voters who would oppose.
Support rises with age among voters of both parties: 52% of Conservative voters aged 65 or older say they would support the introduction of an online sales tax, compared to only 38% of those aged 18 to 24. Meanwhile, 47% of Labour voters aged 65 or older say they would support the tax, compared to only 33% of Labour voters aged 18 to 24.
Thinking about the impact of an online sales tax, 41% think it would make shoppers worse off but without making high street retailers proportionately better off. On the other hand, 30% think the gains for high street retailers would be greater than the losses to shoppers. This proportion is reflected almost identically among both Conservative and Labour voters.
The possible introduction of an online sales tax is one that seems to divide the British electorate evenly—but not along political party lines. Instead, age seems to be main determinant of both support and opposition to such a tax: older Conservative voters and older Labour voters are together far more likely to support its introduction than younger Conservative voters and younger Labour voters. In the context of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and its disproportionate impact on the younger population, an online sales tax could be yet another issue that pits generation against generation.