Online shoppers face extra tax under Government plans

30 June 2020

New delivery charge proposed to help reduce pollution


Online shoppers may have to pay a compulsory online delivery charge on all orders under new government plans.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is considering a new fee to combat congestion and rising toxic emissions due to an increase in online shopping during the coronavirus outbreak, the Times reports.

Internet retail sales jumped to 32.8% of all transactions in May, compared to just 18.9% in February before the UK went into lockdown, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This has caused an increase in the number of delivery vans on the road.

Scientific advisors are calling for “mandatory charge,” similar to the one levied on plastic bags, to be applied to all Amazon-style deliveries.

Shoppers have started to order more than necessary due to the number of free and next-day delivery deals advertised, their findings show.

Ministers were informed that the charges may encourage “more sustainable behaviour".

A spokeswoman told The Times: “Cutting congestion and vehicle emissions in our towns and cities is absolutely key to improving air quality and building a greener transport network.”

“We continue to work closely with experts on the best ways to achieve that and to meet our ambitious 2050 net-zero target.”

Nitrogen oxide emmissions (NOx) have fallen by 74% between 1970 and 2018, according to recent data from the ONS.

However, NOx emissions from vans have risen by 43% between 2007 and 2017.

NOx can cause breathing difficulties and lead to conditions such as chronic lung disease.

The majority of delivery vans are also powered by diesel, which negatively impacts the environment.

The DfT currently offers grants of £8,000 to reduce the cost of companies purchasing electric vans, to cut down on emissions.

The proposals will be opened up to public consultation before a final decision is made.

Online delivery tax could be “counterproductive”

Experts warn that a levy on online shopping could be counter-productive and may in fact encourage shoppers to travel out to stores instead, increasing car pollution.

Andrew Hagger, personal finance expert at MoneyComms, says: “It would be a controversial move and a hugely unpopular one with consumers.

“The worry is that such a surcharge could turn into a cash cow like the Insurance Premium Tax which the Government keeps increasing as a way of trying to balance its books.

“You could also argue that the move may be counterproductive with people getting in their cars and driving to the local retail outlets to make their purchases instead.”

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