THE news that HMV has joined the ever-increasing list of retail stores that have been unable to withstand online competition surely must indicate that the Government must take action if we are to see our high streets and regional shopping centres survive ("Jobs threat as HMV in administration", The Herald, January 15).

Little can be done, or indeed should be done, to make it more difficult or expensive to shop online but a number of safeguards are urgently required, not least to ensure that these online companies make a fair contribution in terms of taxes paid in the country where the sales originate.

Perhaps we should do as other nations have done and introduce a sales tax on turnover to replace business rates. This would be fairer as any tax is then based on actual sales achieved rather than notional rental values which are grossly unfair on those companies serving a dwindling market on our high streets and shopping centres.

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I am sure the online companies would soon be arguing for the "point of sale" that determines what tax is payable to be some location that also doubles as a tax haven but this can be easily overcome by a ruling that the point of sale is the purchaser's address or even the point of despatch of the purchased goods. It would be fair to assume that a large warehouse on the Cayman Islands would face major costs in sending me my purchased CD in a couple of days.

The most important point is that we need action now before the steady stream of failing retail companies becomes a torrent. It will be impossible to rebuild high streets and local shopping centres if they are allowed to dissolve before action is taken. We should remember that these facilities form an important part of the social fabric of our communities and would be an enormous loss, particularly to the elderly, if they were to disappear.

Iain M Lawson,

27 Ben Lui Drive,