Tech industry reactions to the 2018 Budget

On Monday, Philip Hammond has delivered his third Budget as chancellor. Within the speech a number of things were announced that would affect tech companies and retailers in the UK.

Here’s what the tech and retail channels had to say about the announcements:

Digital Services Tax

The Digital Services Tax is expected to raise at leas £400m a year from digital platforms like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones MBE: “The Chancellor talks of the hard work of the British people, but the hard work of our businesses and workers is completely undermined when we lose billions of pounds in tax revenue from the US tech giants.

“It’s way beyond time for action on the pitiful amount of tax paid by the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google, so I congratulate the Chancellor on taking this first step. If all UK businesses took advantage of the tax rules that apply to off-shore businesses, the country would collapse. It’s the tax-paying entrepreneur that props up this country and it’s time for these tech giants to pay their share.

“As business leaders we have a responsibility to give back to the country and to nurture the community around us. I look at the UK’s booming tech industry and I’m proud of the way we are able to contribute, but it has to be a level playing field if we want to achieve the strong digital future that Hammond wants to see.”

Business rates bill

Hammond announced the business rates bill for firms with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will be cut by a third over two years.

Dan Todaro, MD of Gekko: “The introduction of a review for all retailers in England with a rateable value of £51,000 or less, Intended to cut their business rates bill by one third is a positive step realising an annual saving of up to £8,000 for up to 90% of all independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes.

“In some locations this is perhaps too late when you consider the vacant properties on the diminishing high street. It also does not help those retailers, multiple or independent, with a larger footprint. For stores which anchor the high street such as Debenhams, HoF, M&S etc. the reduction in business rates for these retailers by local authorities, delivers a longer term tangible wealth to the community.

“This government constantly refers to a ‘dividend’ for all, which is used entirely in the wrong context, as there’s no dividend for communities who’s high street have already been decimated and resemble ghost towns.”

Future High Street fund

£900m in business rates relief was announced for small businesses and £650m to rejuvenate the UK’s high streets.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC: "Retailers welcome the measures announced by the Treasury to invest new funding to boost high streets and town centres and facilitate re-invention to modern and diverse destinations. We await with interest further details of the plans, particularly around how the funding will be targeted, who will eligible and how quickly funds will be made available.”

£50m to develop UK AI talent

The Government has committed further investment to the UK’s booming Artificial Intelligence sector by announcing an additional £50 million to attract and retain the world’s top talent.

Working with the Alan Turing Institute, the money will be invested in new Turing AI Fellowships to help bring the best global researchers in AI to the UK.

DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright said: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy we’re joining with industry to invest close to £1 billion in AI, to position the UK as one of the best places in the world to develop and use this exciting new technology. This investment will help us to recruit and retain the best talent in AI and ensure that we are we are leading the way on research and development in the sector.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The huge potential of artificial intelligence to transform our economy and our lives for the better, from revolutionising cancer treatment to combating financial fraud, is at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“This investment is the next step in our commitment to make Britain the world’s most innovative economy, with highly-skilled jobs in every part of the UK.”

Adrian Smith, Director of The Alan Turing Institute commented: “In order to realise the significant opportunities for innovation and growth offered by the data and artificial intelligence revolution, it is essential that we nurture and grow the very best academic talent and expertise. We are delighted to be working with the Government Office for AI to deliver the Turing AI Fellowships, bringing the best global researchers to collaborate with us in the UK and driving forward impact in these technologies for the benefit of science, society and the economy.”

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