Business leaders gathered this morning at Heathrow to join together in calling for a return to tax-free shopping for international visitors. Attendees included representatives of businesses across the UK, including Shevaun Haviland (DG of the British Chambers of Commerce) and Craig Beaumont (Chief of External Affairs FSB), the meeting was chaired by Dale Reeson (Director of Operations, Heathrow).

Attendees heard the damaging effect of the policy change with estimates putting the loss to the British retail sector at over £1.5bn a year. Attendees also heard retail spend at Heathrow declined by 37% during the first nine months of 2023, compared to the same period in 2019.

Those present argued that the Treasury could no longer dispute forecasts on the policy change but that there was now existing data which showed the hugely detrimental impact this was having on the UK’s tourism and hospitality sector.
A new internationally competitive tax-free shopping scheme would help turbocharge the UK’s retail and hospitality sectors, bringing benefit to all corners of the UK through economic growth and tax revenue.

The roundtable followed news that the OBR intends to re-examine the figures on taxation around tourist shopping in advance of the Spring Budget.

Shevaun Haviland, Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: ‘It was great to be at Heathrow today to hear how a new internationally competitive tax free shopping scheme would turbocharge Britain’s economy, helping retailers and hospitality venues across the country.

“The Chancellor in his Spring Budget has the chance to firmly show that Britain is open for business, he must seize it.’

Dale Reeson, Director of Operations, Heathrow said:“We were delighted to be joined by the BCC and FSB today at Heathrow, coming together on the campaign to scrap the tourist tax, to level the playing field for British businesses.
“The UK’s international competitiveness is at stake as tourist spend in the UK is being overshadowed by other European countries, where goods are up to 20% cheaper. We must see policy change at the Spring Budget, which would benefit every town and city across Britian.”

Paul Britton, CEO, Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce said: “The impact of the “tourist tax“ is not limited to the significant hospitality and retail sector, but transport, and the wider visitor economy, disincentivising longer visits to our iconic attractions, and pushing spend elsewhere in Europe.

We have seen new momentum in this debate from this campaign and we need to see the back of this tax”.

Craig Beaumont, Chief of External Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
“Introducing tax-free shopping would be like switching on a huge, neon “welcome” sign for British business. After years of turmoil, small firms across the UK are looking for reasons to be positive, and a £10bn benefit to the economy from a new tax-free shopping scheme, expanded to include the EU, would be a game-changer.

“With 30 days to go to the Spring budget, small firms in retail, hospitality and the supply chain across the regions will be looking to the Chancellor for a bold move like this – more visitors, more spend, more growth and prosperity, more jobs and more consequential tax revenues for HM Treasury. Today was great to join forces with the British Chambers of Commerce and Heathrow Airport to make the case, together.”

Paul Britton, CEO, Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce said: “The impact of the “tourist tax“ is not limited to the significant hospitality and retail sector, but transport, and the wider visitor economy, disincentivising longer visits to our iconic attractions, and pushing spend elsewhere in Europe.

We have seen new momentum in this debate from this campaign and we need to see the back of this tax”.