Phil Hammond's misunderstanding the rates problem and Amazon

There's long been a muttering that Amazon and the other online sellers should be taxed in some manner. They're not paying the business rates of he High Street retailers and this is unfair, not a level playing field. Phil Hammond seems to be thinking along these lines which is a mistake. For internet sales use less of, and lower priced, commercial property. Therefore they should in fact be paying less of a tax upon commercial property.

The demand that they pay the same is as if we had a tax upon, say, the use of fossil fuels and then we taxed people who didn't use them because they weren't. Somewhere between silly and nonsensical that is.

Philip Hammond has raised the prospect of an “Amazon tax” for online retailers amid fears that high street shops are being put out of business, as House of Fraser was rescued in a last-ditch deal on Friday.

The Chancellor said the tax system had to be fairer to traditional retailers and that the EU was looking at imposing revenue-based taxes on online firms, but that Britain would introduce its own levies if progress was too slow.

There is that interesting technical point that business rates are not incident upon the retailer in the first place but upon the landlord. Lightening the tax burden for commercial property landlords might be a Tory principle but it's not quite how to run an economy.

But it's that claim being made, that different ways of doing the same thing - providing retail services - must carry the same tax burden which is off. We do not have equality of taxation between restaurants, takeaways and home cooking and we'd be mad to think of doing so. Why should we have equality of taxation between physical retail and virtual? 

We shouldn't should we?