At this uncertain stage a crystal ball (whether British or imported) would be needed to speak with any certainty on what impacts Brexit will have on tax in the retail world. Below however are three of the pressure points:
Brexit should mean freedom for HMRC to charge (or not charge) VAT as it chooses, unfettered by European regulations and decisions. Electorally unpopular EU VAT policies (such as the so-called 'tampon tax') should no longer be an issue. It would also be open for zero-rating to be extended in a way which benefits consumers. But will the consumer experience a VAT bonanza? Certainly, in many people's view, UK VAT is currently unnecessarily complicated. But with 22% of the total UK tax take from 2015-16 derived from VAT (almost £107bn), we are unlikely to see any significant cuts though there may be considerable tweaking around the edges.
There is a long-standing prohibition on the grant of financial assistance by the UK government to UK businesses in a way that distorts competition within the EU Single Market. After Brexit, the UK could be free to grant more aid of this kind if it so desired. Might the struggling high street benefit from newly permissible government largesse in the form of tax breaks? For example the SDLT exemption for property purchases in disadvantaged areas could be re-instated. When the UK tries to negotiate a potential trade deal with the EU in the future, its bargaining power will depend to a large extent on whether we respect the traditions of the Single Market. The government will need therefore to decide whether it will accept EU restrictions on government support for the sake of access to the Single Market, or whether it will 'go it alone' and revel in its new-found tax freedom risking the wrath of the European Commission.
‘Remainers’ were keen to stress that trade after Brexit would hold no guarantees on freedom from barriers or tariffs. Having voted 'out', the tariff situation now largely depends on the terms of our exit. A fractious or ignominious withdrawal would increase the chance of EU member states imposing substantial tariffs on imports from the UK. On the other hand, a decision to stay within the Single Market will lead to little change with goods and services still available tariff-free. Many retailers who sell imported goods here in the UK would breathe a sigh of relief.