An online sales tax to level the playing field between high street and online purchases would be passed straight on to customers, ParcelHero has warned.

It said home shoppers should not be duped into footing the bill for the impact of Covid-19, after 18 high street retail bosses called for online businesses to pay similar tax to physical store sellers.

The Chancellor is thought to be considering introducing an online sales tax amid an explosion in internet shopping and more details could emerge in his Spring Budget this week.

But ParcelHero said e-commerce giants would not pay for the tax and it would instead impact millions of people.

David Jinks, ParcelHero’s head of consumer services, said: “During lockdown, shoppers of all ages have turned to e-commerce so they can continue to shop safely from their own homes.

“That is a sensible choice and consumers must not be punished for being wary of shopping centres and crowded stores.”

Jinks said: “We entirely agree with the British Retail Consortium’s view that an online tax would hit high street retailers who have online operations and result in higher costs for shoppers at a time of severe weakness in the British economy.

“It’s simply naive to think that most of today’s successful retailers are not already online.

“Those that aren’t are staring extinction squarely in the face and no new online tax can save them.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “We want to see thriving high streets, which is why we’ve spent tens of billions of pounds supporting shops throughout the pandemic and are supporting town centres through the changes online shopping brings.

“Our business rates review call for evidence included questions on whether we should shift the balance between online and physical shops by introducing an online sales tax.

“We’re considering responses now and will update in due course.”