MPs and tourism chiefs urge Rishi Sunak to axe VAT on holiday tests

Furious MPs and tourism chiefs urge Rishi Sunak to axe VAT on holiday tests to help get the country moving again

  • MPs urged Chancellor to immediately axe the ‘stealth tax’ on Covid travel tests 
  • Critics say the tax is damaging economy and pricing families out of holidays  
  • Daily Mail launched campaign calling on ministers to deliver their pledges  

Rishi Sunak last night faced a growing clamour to scrap the VAT ‘stealth tax’ on Covid travel tests.

MPs, campaigners and travel chiefs all urged the Chancellor to immediately axe the levy, which adds 20 per cent to what is already described as a ‘rip-off’ fee.

Critics said the tax was not only pricing ordinary families out of foreign holidays, but also damaging the economy by stifling the rebound of the UK’s beleaguered travel industry.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail launched a campaign calling on ministers to deliver on their pledge to reduce the price of travel testing in time for peak summer holiday season.

MPs, campaigners and travel chiefs all urged the Chancellor to immediately axe the levy, which adds 20 per cent to what is already described as a ‘rip-off’ fee. Pictured: Ross Lovelock and his wife who have forked out £396 for tests that never happened

Many have complained that the exorbitant cost of Covid testing, which is required when we travel abroad under the ‘traffic light’ quarantine system, can add hundreds of pounds to the price of the average family holiday.

As a starting point, the travel industry is demanding that the Treasury scrap VAT on the tests.

Last night, there was growing fury at the Treasury’s refusal to act.

Officials have claimed that they could not scrap the levy on testing without having to raise taxes elsewhere. Critics immediately pointed out that ministers could not possibly be relying on revenues from the tax because it has only started bringing in money in the past few months.

Meanwhile, ministers were unable to point to any progress they had made on the Government’s pledge to cut costs yesterday.

Earlier this month, 17 Tory MPs wrote to the Chancellor to call for a VAT cut for tests.

Yesterday, they repeated their demands as they criticised the ‘counter-productive’ system that was making flights the ‘preserve of the rich’.

Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group of MPs and a signatory to the letter, said: ‘They know that aviation is a major economic enabler that will be central to our economic recovery so it is counter-productive to allow our sky-high testing costs to remain a barrier to international travel.’

Ex-minister David Davis said: ‘The Government should do everything it can to incentivise people to liberalise the economy. They should certainly look at scrapping VAT as a way of mitigating the costs of the restrictions they’ve put on people, and a way of making things safer.’

Sir Graham Brady, lead author of the letter and chairman of the Tory backbench committee, lent his support to the Mail’s campaign, adding: ‘As we approach the summer holidays, it must be a priority to ensure that travel does not become the preserve of the rich.’

Pictured: Konrad Tapp and his wife Carol who are now unable to visit their new grandchild

Several travel chiefs also intervened. Heathrow Airport chief John Holland-Kaye said: ‘The Daily Mail’s campaign for cheaper Covid tests is exactly the type of thing the aviation and tourism industry needs.

‘A lot of progress to reduce the cost of Covid tests has already been made by industry, and now it’s time for ministers to step up and do their part.’

He called for VAT to be scrapped and for the use of lateral flow tests for arrivals from low risk countries, instead of the more expensive PCR tests.

Tim Alderslade, CEO of trade body Airlines UK, said: ‘This is not a revenue line that has been on the Treasury scorecard for years and years, it’s a classic stealth tax that has been imposed since Covid hit.’

A Government spokesman said officials were working with the travel industry and private testing providers to see how they can further reduce the cost of travel. 

‘PHANTOM KITS COST ME £400’  

After 40 years of jet-setting for work, Ross Lovelock’s attempts at using the Covid testing regime is the worst travel experience he has had.

The former business executive yesterday says he has forked out £396 for tests that never happened.

Mr Lovelock, 66, last week travelled to the property he has owned in the Algarve for 20 years with his wife Susan, having both taken tests at a total cost of £170 before leaving. The couple were so impressed with ExpressTest at Heathrow that they chose to use it again on their return.

Before travelling back to the UK from Portugal, a green list country, on May 28, they paid £118 to be tested on the second day after their return. But when they tried to fill in their passenger locator form, a reference number supplied by the firm was rejected.

The couple felt obliged to book tests again, spending another £118. The same error occurred, which the Lovelocks tried to explain to BA staff when arriving for their flight from Faro. They had separately taken lateral flow tests costing £50 in Portugal.

Airline staff told them they would not be able to board so they booked tests with CityDoc Medical Ltd which were accepted, letting them fly home to Hindhead, Surrey.

But Mr Lovelock yesterday said that those tests had not yet arrived, calling the travel experience ‘perhaps the worst I’ve ever had’.

WE CAN’T SEE OUR NEW GRANDCHILD

For almost two years, Covid restrictions have left Konrad Tapp and his wife Carol unable to see their son Peter in Switzerland.

So after both received two coronavirus jabs, they believed that the birth of their granddaughter three weeks ago finally signalled their opportunity to make the trip.

The retired couple, pictured, were due to fly this Saturday but have had to cancel the trip under the weight of testing and quarantine rules.

Mr Tapp, 78, who served with the Royal Engineers, said: ‘As we’ve both been jabbed – we can only agree, firmly – that it’s a rip-off and someone, somewhere, is making a hell of a lot of money.’

The Tapps, from Darwen, Lancashire, were given permission to travel to Switzerland, which is on the amber list, on compassionate grounds after supplying documents to the country’s UK embassy. They booked tests costing £99 at Boots to be taken within three days of their departure and learned that a testing package costing £165 each had be carried out on their return.

Then, when Switzerland last week announced that UK arrivals would have to carry out a ten-day quarantine, the Tapps cancelled their trip.

 

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