Fashion stalwart Harold Tillman backs call to axe tourists’ VAT bills

One of the biggest names in British fashion, Harold Tillman, becomes the latest figure to support our campaign to end the controversial tourist tax

One of the biggest names in British fashion, Harold Tillman, has become the latest figure to back the Mail’s campaign to end a controversial tourist tax as figures show the recovery of VAT-free shopping could hurt the economy in five year by £20 billion.

Tillman, former head of fashion brand Jaeger and luxury retailer Aquascutum, said it is nonsense that the UK is penalized by an ‘unnecessary’ tax. His pleas for the government to scrap the levy came a day after it was revealed that 200 top companies are now backing the campaign.

The bosses of The Ritz London, Langham Hotels and Longchamp are among the most recent signatories to a letter from hotelier Sir Rocco Forte calling on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to bring back tax-free shopping for foreign tourists.

Tillman’s comments come after analysis of forecasts by Oxford Economics shows that reversing the ban would add £20.5bn to GDP over five years.

It would inject £4.1 billion a year into the economy and support 78,000 jobs, experts say.

Best foot forward: Figures show the return to VAT-free shopping would boost the economy by £20bn over five years

Oxford Economics and well-known retailers, hoteliers and public figures argue that it would encourage more visitors and boost spending in hotels, restaurants and theatres, and would exceed the cost of refunds.

Then Chancellor Rishi Sunak scrapped a 20 percent VAT refund for foreign customers in 2021.

Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council for five years, says he has been inundated with calls from young designers and established names. He said, “I’ve lost count of how many calls I’ve had from people saying, ‘Can you do something, this is awesome?’

Tillman added: ‘Why are we actually shooting ourselves in both legs by not competing by having the same tax advantage as other countries? [have]? London is a wonderful city to encourage people to come to. We are competitive [but] nevertheless, we are not helping ourselves with this unnecessary burden.’

A spokesperson for the Treasury said: ‘VAT-free shopping does not directly benefit Britons – it allows foreign tourists buying items in the UK to reclaim the VAT when they return home. We continue to support high street retailers by cutting business rate bills by 75 per cent, helping with utility bills and effectively reducing corporate tax by £27bn through full spend.”