LONDON – Britain said it would tax the revenue that online platforms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon make in the country to update a system that had not kept pace with changing digital business models.
“It’s clearly not sustainable, or fair, that digital platform businesses can generate substantial value in the U.K. without paying tax here in respect of that business,” finance minister Philip Hammond said in his annual budget speech on Monday.
The tax will be designed to ensure established tech giants, rather than start-ups, shoulder the burden, Hammond told parliament.
The Treasury said profitable companies would be taxed at 2 percent on the money they make from U.K. users from April 2020, and the measure was expected to raise more than £400 million ($512 million) a year.
The tax will target platforms such as search engines, social media and online marketplaces, Hammond said, and it will be paid by companies that generate at least £500 million a year in global revenue.
Britain had been leading attempts to reform international corporate tax systems, Hammond said, but progress had been painfully slow and governments could not simply talk forever.
Clifford Chance tax partner Dan Neidle said the radical nature of the proposal clearly showed that Britain was becoming frustrated with the slow pace of change in global tax laws.
“The U.K. is running ahead of every other country except Spain,” he said.
But given the dominance of U.S. tech giants, President Donald Trump’s administration may not appreciate the proposal at a time when Britain is trying to agree new trade deals.
Hammond said that if a global solution emerges, it would consider adopting this instead of its tax.
But in the meantime, the government would consult on the detail to make sure it got this right, and then ensure Britain remained one of the best places to start and scale up a tech business.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.