Theresa May: Budget is not paving the way for a general election

UK announces digital services tax on tech giants

The UK is to hit tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple with a new digital services tax from 2020.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is proposing a 2% tax rate against the sales that social media platforms, internet marketplaces and search engines make in the UK.

Hammond was keen to stress the tax would be on "tech giants" and not smaller start-ups, meaning it would only apply to companies that generate at least £500m revenue per year.

Hammond said the UK Government would continue to take part in conversations to create a global solution and would replace the digital services tax with a world-wide tax if and when one is agreed upon.

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"We will set up a Centre for Excellence to actively manage these contracts in the tax payers interest. and we will go further, I have never signed off a PFI contract as chancellor and I can confirm today that I never will. But the worry for the tech giants, and their shareholders, is that this is the pebble that starts an avalanche of taxes from global governments", Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf said. But the social media company claim that in the United Kingdom just 5% of sales were converted into UK-taxable profits allowing it to pay very little tax as it claimed its profits were reduced by a £444m charge for unexplained "administrative expenses".

The Chancellor has given reassurances that it will be tech giants who will be affected by the tax.

British MPs have previously criticised tech companies' tax arrangements as "immoral".

The growth of the digital economy, in which it becomes less important where a company is physically located, has proven troubling for the tax system.

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This will make digital goods more expensive to consumers and may crimp on businesses' revenues.

The oil and gas industry will benefit from continuing support by retaining the headline tax rates at their current level, he added.

Setting out latest Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts, Hammond said the deficit is expected to be less than 1.4% next year and would fall to 0.8% by 2023-23.

Helen Coward, senior associate in corporate tax at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, commented: "We now have some shape to the digital services tax - the so-called Amazon tax - being mooted by the government".

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Scotland has control over income tax rates and bands and SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has already indicated that he won't follow the cuts set out south of the border, insisting that Scotland will take a "fairer and progressive" approach.

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