Retail Excellence has called for tax fairness measures in the October Budget to protect retailers from what it described as cheap, non-European imports.

The group's chief executive Lorraine Higgins said online distance sellers are not registered for VAT in Ireland and so do not apply the tax to the product price which leaves retailers here at a competitive disadvantage. 

"One of the single biggest threats to bricks and mortar stores in Ireland and, consequently the retail mix and vibrancy of our town centres, is the glut of cheap, non-European imports being bought by Irish consumers online," Ms Higgins said. 

"The prices of these goods and products are generally distorted as many distance sellers are not registered for VAT in Ireland and therefore do not apply same or duties to the product price which leaves our retailers at a competitive disadvantage," she added.

Retail Excellence said it was recommending that online marketplaces are held jointly and severally liable for the collection of VAT and duties from distance sellers and that all online advertisers acquire an Irish VAT number.  

It is also proposing that VAT and duties exemptions on imported products are discontinued. 

The group has also called for increased funding under the Digital Trading Online Voucher scheme to enable more retailers get online and want support to help Irish retailers fulfil their export potential. 

Retail Excellence are also seeking in the Budget a cut in consumption taxes, a reduction in the cost of doing business, increased infrastructural investment, Garda resources, town renewal funding, investment in the Home Renewal Scheme, introduction of measures to increase competitiveness and improved access to finance.

Irish retailers operate 42,000 businesses with 282,000 employees directly and contribute €7 billion to the Exchequer on an annual basis. 

"The significance of retail must not be underestimated," Ms Higgins said.