back to article MPs back call to boycott low-taxed tat from Amazon over Xmas

Eight MPs are backing a call in Blighty for Christmas shoppers to boycott the convenience haven of Amazon after its aggressive tax avoidance regime in the country. Ethical Consumer magazine has launched a campaign to get people to stop using the mega-etailer over the holidays and politicians including Margaret Hodge, chair of …


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  1. Jugernautilus

    Do what we want, not what we say

    Instead of wringing their hands and bemoaning the evils of business, perhaps the honourable members of parliament could sort out the tax rules they make? Or is that too much like real work?

    1. Gordon Pryra

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      If the MP's sort the tax rules out then a number of things will happen.

      The big companies who have been giving them back handers to keep the current system in place will have them shot.

      Their own companies will have to start paying tax (looking at you here Hodge)

      Never going to happen as long as our politicians are allowed to be directors and own stocks n shares

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Do what we want, not what we say

        They'll stop bleating about Amazon when Amazon makes enough party donations, then they'll move onto another company.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      What, Enver Hodge sort out the legislation that allows her family firm to pay a minuscule amount of tax, when she could be spending her time grandstanding on national media? Fat chance!

      1. HollyHopDrive

        Re: Do what we want, not what we say

        Well, first off when the gov stop raping us bare with income tax etc so we can actually afford to make not having to take the cheapest option viable then I'll think about it.

        Secondly get your own house in order first and stop awarding large (mostly IT) contracts to large multinational companies that also pay no fucking tax. And then, and only then will I listen to things like this.

        1. El_Fev

          Re: Do what we want, not what we say

          That tax goes to pay for NHS, Defence etc so suck it up!

          1. Just a geek

            Re: Do what we want, not what we say

            I would 'suck it up' if I wasn't paying tax on everything.

            Get paid by work - it's taxed.

            Put money into my savings account - it's taxed

            Buy something at the shop - it's taxed

            Order something online - it's taxed

            Pay my bills - they are taxed

            And my MP? Well, they are in various tax avoidance schemes and have expense funds to handle all that.

            Something is very wrong somewhere.

            1. AndyS

              Re: HollyHopDrive, Just a geek etc

              Moan moan moan, life's so hard in my comfortable first world country with free health care, education, social care, state pensions, security, policing, safety nets etc. I wish I was a bit richer (but still had all that free stuff).

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                Thumb Down

                "Contributions. We are looking for Contributions."

                Pfff... ridiculous, missing the point and ignoring the Yellowstone-sized debt vulcano about to blow

                "free health care, education, social care, state pensions, security, policing, safety nets etc"

                None of these work - and they are only "free" for people of the same retardative class who think minimum wages help "the poor".

                Additionally, apparently it is now a duty to look for expensive, properly taxed stuff so that [random brueaucrat] can properly redistributed my income to whomever is his croniest.

              2. bigtimehustler

                Re: HollyHopDrive, Just a geek etc

                Haha, no actually I don't wish we had all the free stuff, I wish I wasn't paying for everyone else to have the free stuff. I'd happily pay for my own stuff.

          2. bigtimehustler

            Re: Do what we want, not what we say

            Haha, yea and of course all of these things are being run efficiently without waste. If they were then the tax bill could be cut by billions and hence income tax reduced as there would be less to pay for. If 90% of the money we paid went to the police (and they stopped spending too much time enforcing stupid laws), fire service, NHS and defence then I wouldn't have a problem, but it doesn't, vast amounts go on nonsense projects and unneeded services and red tape. Cut all that out completely and only pay for the core services and at a much more efficient running level and I would happily pay the remaining cost, but as it is right now if my company is ever a success or I earn too much money as an employee I will be moving myself out of here.

      2. Why Not?

        Re: Do what we want, not what we say

        Indeed if only they had been in power 10 years ago when all this wholesale tax avoidance really took off they could have nipped it in the bud. Instead of waiting until the bust they fuelled and watching every large UK based tax paying firm fold because their competitors didn't pay VAT or Corporation tax or if Bodyshopping income tax or NI.

        I mean the workers party allowing wholesale sale of the Tax offices to a tax haven or sending out search parties to get cheap workers to gerrymander would be unthinkable.

    3. NomNomNom

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      Not even the MPs can stand up to the corporations. The corporations are too big and have gone global they are always up to new tricks. Tesco keeps sending small vans up my street in a suspicious manner. They drive up and down our road as if they own it but there's no store for miles. I think they are scanning our houses. I have placed a number of heavy blankets over my wifi router so they can't read it from the road.

      I have no doubt this confuses tesco and whips them into a mad rage, which is probably why they send more vans. One of the neighbours is in on it too because I often see the vans stop outside their house and drop off suspicious items in bags, possibly parts for a giant listening device that they are constructing in their house which will eventually be capable of piercing through my wifi defenses.

      I don't think they know that I am on to them. I will keep you posted.

      1. returnmyjedi

        They're way ahead of you (briefly nsfw):

    4. El_Fev

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      @Jugernautilus , yes they should and until they do how about you and your mates stop cleaning out the posterior of Amazon and encourage them to treating paying tax as a vital part of being a member of this society!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      It might be better if the HMRC had some staff who have a clue what they were supposed to be doing. Today's conversation, "The HMRC cannot progress this matter because they are waiting for the information they have had for at least ten days they have had from the company who were paying the income." It was also sent in by me six weeks earlier, on the day asked for it, but they have not yet opened the letter, well done.

      This was after the clerk accused me of calling the wrong number; the number on the letter that some fool had sent out twice. It was the right number, the clerk had not been correctly trained to deal with calls. No wonder companies are not paying the tax others would like them to pay.

      Having said that, the fact that Hodge's suggestion is made for party political grandstanding reasons is the best reason to continue to trade WITH Amazon!

      On the other hand, training the staff, giving them the tools and some understandable rules and processes would be a good idea.

      Does anyone know why the so called self assessment 'system' needs to be kissed by Santa, before it can start dealing with last financial year's accounts whenever they are filed?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      Ahhh the shrillness of the Commoners in the House is rising again. Tis the season…

      But, as you so eloquently point out, they'd rather go whaa-whaa than actually doing something about it.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      The tax laws are international. Just like climate change targets you don't change just your own country's rates and laws as it results in no change at all.

      How on earth can you force a global business to pay taxes in your country?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do what we want, not what we say

        You tax their receipts not their profits.

        Note that I'm not saying I think you *should* (I don't), just that you *could*.

    8. simon gardener

      Re: Do what we want, not what we say

      Well said - saved me writing it

  2. dervheid

    Instead of putting the onus onto us

    Why don'y THEY do THEIR job and get this sorted out so that Amazon (and all the others) CAN'T avoid paying the tax they should be due.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Instead of putting the onus onto us

      Probably because tax law is fantastically complicated. They actively change law to close loop holes all the time, but the "tax efficiency" consultants have a whole load of avoidance schemes lined up to take their place.

      Add that to the rampant abuse of legitimate and required schemes to move money around in international companies and it can become practically impossible to make a company pay fair tax if they don't want to. One scheme in particular paying a license fee for branding etc going to the parent company and being tax deductable, this is perfectly legitimate but widely abused by companies like Starbucks who pay close to 100% to their parent company, neatly avoiding any tax.

    2. VinceH

      Re: Instead of putting the onus onto us

      "Why don'y THEY do THEIR job and get this sorted out so that Amazon (and all the others) CAN'T avoid paying the tax they should be due."

      But Dave Cameron and Claire Perry have been doing their job to get this sorted out. Once the filter is up and running, all it'll need is a bit of feature creep, and instead of "MPs back call to boycott low-taxed tat from Amazon" the headline could be "MPs back call to enforced boycott on low-taxed tat from Amazon".

  3. Just a geek

    So, According to our lords and masters we should boycott amazon because they use the law and tax loopholes to avoid tax?

    Well, you know who else use the same loopholes? MP's.

    So lets compare the two.

    I can order goods from Amazon which arrive, normally on schedule. If something goes wrong I can speak to someone and they'll replace the goods with no fuss or argument. They also provide things like AWS.

    My MP - A tax scrounging, expense stealing parasite that I am banned from speaking to.

    Which one would I rather see avoid tax? Neither of them but for service Amazon wins out, therefore this bunch of MP's can go screw themselves rather than the electorate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Let me guess judging by your recent posts - You are banned from speaking to your MP because you can't speak civilly to someone?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which one would I rather see avoid tax? [Amazon]

      Hmm. It seems to me that the UK would benefit more (monetarily) from efficient tax collection from Amazon than it would from MPs. And fixing "Amazon taxability" would work on other similar companies, and bring in more money for the UK budget.

    3. JDX Gold badge

      Your MP routes their VAT through Luxembourg?

  4. ISYS

    Good Luck with that

    Persuade people drive to their local town, drive round for ages looking for a parking space, battle through the crowds, placate their bored kids with a crappy meal from any number of foreign owned, tax avoiding food concessions and queue for hours in crowded stores that may or may not have what you want in stock. If they do it will cost nearly half as much as it does on the internet.

    Alternatively - Buy it now - delivered to you door 2-5 working days later. All from the comfort of your armchair.

    1. David Webb

      Re: Good Luck with that

      I think the guys are suggesting you use other websites that are not Amazon, honourable though the intention may be, money is tight, Amazon is cheap, so why pay £25 for something on one site when it's £20 on Amazon, we're not all MP's with a huge allowance and backhanders.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: why pay £25 for something on one site when it's £20 on Amazon?

        True, but I'm happy to pay (eg) £22 for some book(s) at Waterstones (web or not) instead of £20 Amazon, since with W (or any such company with a physical presence) I will probably get to talk to a real person if there's a problem. That's my preference, yours may differ.

      2. monkeyfish

        Re: Good Luck with that

        Quite, at least Amazon use the tax avoidance to make things cheaper, unlike starbucks that didn't pay tax but still charged the same. They are also the path of least resistance, since the many alternatives will involve me shopping at multiple places rather than a single source. Amazon are also fairly trustworthy and have always made it easy to return crap that didn't work/wasn't as advertised, who knows what the alternatives will do? As for screwing local shops, aren't quite a lot of the products on amazon actually third parties anyway, usually someones local shop.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good Luck with that

        I've only bought one thing from Amazon, as things are always (a part from once) cheaper elsewhere. I suggest you phrase your searches in a more effective way.

  5. lglethal Silver badge

    Agree with most comments here...

    I agree with most comments here about the need for the politicians to close the loopholes rather then whinging about the situation, but I gotta admit £2,4 million tax paid on £4,3 billion in sales is taking the biscuit just a bit...

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: Agree with most comments here...

      > I gotta admit £2,4 million tax paid on £4,3 billion in sales is taking the biscuit

      Yes, but what's a few billion in uncollected taxes when compared with the opportunity for some political grandstanding?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agree with most comments here...

      Well, if you whinge about the hypocrisy and/or failings of the politicians hard enough, you get to forget about the issue actually being raised by the article. But being annoyed by the behaviour of politicians doesn't mean you can't choose to spend your money differently - and while the effect of Your such decisions may be negligible to Amazon, they don't need to be negligible compared to what You can actually do. That is, at least, better than nothing.

    3. Chris Miller

      Re: Agree with most comments here...

      You do realise that Corporation Tax is levied on profit, not turnover? And that Amazon pays HMRC hundreds of millions in VAT, Employer's NI, Business Rates, etc.

      1. Squander Two

        Re: Agree with most comments here...

        The tax campaigners are pouring a hell of a lot of effort into persuading the public that tax is paid on turnover, and, sadly, it appears to be working.

      2. Bluenose

        Re: Agree with most comments here...

        Sorry, Amazon does not pay the UK Govt any VAT whatsoever, that money is paid by consumers as a tax on all goods that they choose to procure from Amazon. Amazon are actually the collector of VAT not the payer. In fact Amazon get to offset the VAT they pay for goods and services against the VAT the collect so they don't even handover all the VAT that consumers pay them for the goods.

        I think that if you went through Amazon's books that you would also find that Amazon are in receipt of various waivers of business taxes and capital allowances in relation to their various depots. In fact the article point out the subsidy paid to them in respect of at least one of their warehouses in Scotland and they also received monies when they set up their site in Swansea so they are highly likely to be a net beneficiary of business taxes rather than a payer.

        Finally the turnover is not the correct value to look at but the actual profit. However, due to the high interest rates that Amazon SARL charges Amazon EU et al the profits are skewed. That said if you assume a net margin of between 3% & 5% (not unreasonable in their business) then their profit should have been in the range £90m to £200m on their turnover which should have resulted in taxes somewhere between £25m - £60m against the 2£2.5m they paid.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Agree with most comments here...

          > Sorry, Amazon does not pay the UK Govt any VAT whatsoever, that money is paid by consumers as a tax on all goods that they choose to procure from Amazon.

          I think you'll find that everything Amazon pays ultimately comes from the customer.

          Your differentiations are accounting in nature only.

      3. Bigbird3141

        Re: Agree with most comments here...

        As far as VAT is concerned, they simply collect it - the customer pays it. Same with income tax - the employee pays it, but PAYE cuts out the middle man. Don't fall for their PR BS. Business rates and employer's NI I'll let you have.

      4. Tom 38

        Re: Agree with most comments here...

        I do realise that Corporation Tax is levied on profit, not turnover, but Amazon would have us believe that all their economic activity in the UK actually happens in some 2 person Luxembourgian office.

        1. Squander Two

          "some 2 person Luxembourgian office"

          Yeah, but that's part of the Maastricht Agreement: a company may choose to run all its EU operations from the member state of its choice. One of the things that pisses me off about all this fuss is the huge overlap between people who are angry at companies who use the Maastricht Agreement now and people who were angry at anyone who suggested that we shouldn't sign the thing back then.

          1. Tom 38

            Re: "some 2 person Luxembourgian office"

            To be honest, I've no problem being in a Maastricht treaty style agreement with countries with similar taxation policies. Being in one with countries whose economic existence is based upon them being tax havens is batshit insane though. These principalities need to exit the EU, and countries like Ireland need to stop offering stupid tax incentives to multi-nationals.

            1. Squander Two

              Re: "some 2 person Luxembourgian office"

              Why shouldn't nations be allowed to compete on tax? Ireland, you may have noticed, had some rather serious economic differences recently. Being able to persuade multinationals such as Apple to pass their taxable profits through their country instead of someone else's has been a huge benefit to Ireland in a time of real need.

              You can't have it both ways. If paying "too little" tax is as immoral as Hodge says it is, then surely that goes for every tax jurisdiction. How can it be moral to pay more tax to the UK but also moral to pay less tax to Ireland or Luxembourg?

              And the same applies to tax havens like the Caymans, which our lords and masters have quite appallingly decided to crack down on. We compete with the rest of the world in all sorts of ways -- the City of London, for instance, is still one of the best places to conduct finance, and the UK's legal framework is designed to ensure it stays so, attracting billions of pounds into the country, which we then tax. Paris and Frankfurt and Chicago are free to change their own financial regulations or tax policies or whatever to try and compete with London, and no-one suggests there's anything wrong with that. Countries compete to attract academic money, finance money, semiconductor money, mining money, and quite right too. But if some jumped-up little country competes with the established players on tax, we declare it's "immoral" and try to use threat of military might to intimidate them into stopping competing, all while declaring that we're the good guys. What I would love to see is for a tax haven to place an advert on British or American television, showing the roads, hospitals, schools, bridges, water-treatment plants, and public health programmes that they're able to build using the money they get by taxing the companies whose bank accounts they host. Bypass the useless diplomatic debates and make the point straight to the public. I suspect such a campaign could work wonders on public opinion.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agree with most comments here...

      But how much profit did they make. Amazon somewhat notoriously makes almost zero profit world wide on its operations and has for years. There's bugger all to tax.

      All I see here is a load of greedy bastards all moaning that "Amazon don't pay their fair share" whereas each and everyone of you pays no more tax than you can get away with, never voluntarily pay more even though you could. It's the od "I want things that someone else pays for" moan. Get a life fucktards.

  6. John Lodge

    I have now stopped buying from Amazon. The final nail in the Amazon coffin was the Panorama broadcast on how they treated their staff which, needless to say, is not very well. Stuff 'em I thought.

    What Amazon does have is a superb business model, it's fast, efficient and apparently very friendly and well run. However what it not is, is cheap; it gives the general impression of cheapness in much the same way as supermarkets do but when you start delving and cross price checking most items can be found cheaper elsewhere. Where it does win is on convenience and reliability - but what price my conscience? Amazon will no longer be on my list, which is a pain.

    If and when our Beloved Leaders sort out the tax question and Amazon, along with Google, Starbucks, Vodaphone etc, I may just return as a customer. For me, it's a moral stand but to make the principle work, it's going to need a whole lot of extra effort from everyone.

    1. Champ

      >I have now stopped buying from Amazon. The final nail in the Amazon coffin was the

      >Panorama broadcast on how they treated their staff which, needless to say, is not very well.

      Same here. I'd been trying to avoid Amazon for a couple of years, as I'm pretty uncomfortable with their near monopoly position in some places, but the tax thing, followed by zero-hours contracts, followed by the Panorama broadcast has made me resolve to always find alternative suppliers.

      1. Brenda McViking


        The only thing the panorama broadcast showed me is how seemingly workshy and ignorant young BBC reporters actually are. Zero hour contracts? they're great - I've been on them. It means you get to choose your work-life balance - and provided there is work available (which there inevitably is) then you can put in extra hours and earn extra cash. When you want to go on holiday, you don't have to turn up at work, because you aren't contractually obliged to. You behave like a full time employee, you'll keep your job. And if there isn't work, you go and find somewhere else to work - who the hell owes you a living, anyway?

        As for the whole "picker" role - yeah, that's what these warehouse distributors have to do to get their stuff out on time. You're walking 11 miles a day - so what? so does everyone who stands up for a living. They buy comfortable shoes and don't spend so much money on unused gym membership. Treated like a machine? yeah, course you are, just like everything else on a production line, distribution network, whatever. You do your time, then you hang up your apron and leave your problems at work. It's mindless, but it pays the bills. Get over it. I worked in a supermarket - it's no different, except I had to get cold every 5 minutes in the walk-in freezers to get stock to fufil demand.

        And as for tax, rather than MPs whine about how immoral it is, why don't they change the law - surely that's WHAT THEY DO, isn't it? Personally I'm of the opinion that corporation taxes are rather silly, and amount to double taxation. What money they make is either passed to consumers, who pay VAT, their employees, who pay income tax, or their shareholders, who pay income tax on dividends and capital gains tax on share price increases. It's a business - there is no further place for it to go, and as all routes are taxed, why do we need to tax their profits too? Maybe I'm missing something here, but even if a company just hoardes cash in an offshore subsiduary, it's not doing anything good there and sooner or later it'll become part of the tax-a-go-round again anyway as shareholders demand it to be used to gain them further value.

        Globalisation is here to stay. The sooner our government accept this the better. As a result, my shopping will be done almost exclusively at amazon and other online stores this Christmas, and if that pisses off some MPs, all the better.

        1. barfle

          Re: Panorama...

          @brenda mcviking

          Quite possibly the most intelligent thing I've read on the internet in years. Kudos!

          We may, or may not, argue for years over our preferred levels of taxation, but taxing cash at the precise point it is still a communal benefit for many (ct, ni) is stupid. Tax it at the exits: at the point it could buy a Ferrari, not at the point it could recruit someone out of welfare. And if it isn't used, it just builds up a huge tax bonus for the revenue in future (as a cynical aside there is some merit in holding state wealth in ways that politicians are not at immediate at liberty to spend).

          And for anyone assuming that Amazon is doing so well solely on account of tax avoidance would do well to compare prices. Ct is around 20-25% in the higher tax parts of the EU. Amazon's prices are often half that of their British competitors, their service is better and delivery faster. Even taking tax out of the equation they would still be enormously cheaper. On that basis it is extremely hard to argue that the consumer is not benefitting disproportionately, but it is also clear that tax is a surprisingly small part of the equation.

  7. Bobthe2nd

    Sort your own mess out first..

    "£2.4m in corporate taxes in the UK last year, despite the fact that its sales were £4.3bn and it got as much as £2.5m in government grants to expand its warehouse operations in Scotland."

    Maybe MPs should take some of their own medicine, why give a company £2.5m in grants when it makes £4.3bn in sales?? How many votes does that buy, or is the benefit realisation a seat on the board in a few years time?

    1. Squander Two

      Re: Sort your own mess out first..

      > why give a company £2.5m in grants when it makes £4.3bn in sales??

      Not a big fan of this myself -- think of all the struggling small businesses that grant money could go to -- but, to be fair, the reasoning goes something like "Amazon are about to create a thousand jobs somewhere in the UK; we've got a bit of unused industrial wasteland in our city surrounded by high unemployment: let's give Amazon some grants to get them to create those thousand jobs in this bit of the UK." It's arguably not an optimal tactic, but I'm not convinced it's actually immoral.

      1. Blitheringeejit

        Re: Sort your own mess out first..

        >the reasoning goes something like "Amazon are about to create a thousand jobs somewhere in the UK.."

        Yes, and the same reasoning goes "...and in the process they will send a few hundred small British businesses to the wall because, being unable to offshore their corporation tax liabilities, these businesses will be unable to compete with Amazon on price."

        The price of buying from Amazon is that the government has less money to spend on schools, hospitals, police, defence etc. I hope you think that's worth the fiver you saved by buying your latest bit of iBollocks from Amazon instead of from your local (or web-based) independent British retailer. I agree that it's the government's job to make tax laws which work, but we have a role to play too, in choosing who we do business with.

        In fact, our politics is now so fucked up that choosing where we spend our money is probably a more effective way of changing things that voting.

        1. anatak

          Re: Sort your own mess out first..

          If politicians spent money without wasting it and for the best uses, I would agree with that.

          Let me know when that happens and I ll consider buying local again. Also if local businesses would be willing to sell me what I want instead of what they want to sell to me I ll set foot again in their shops.

      2. barfle

        Re: Sort your own mess out first..

        Not immoral, just daft. If you have to subsidise someone to invest in an area you will be subsidising them for the next 50 years. Better to improve the bus service from there to some place that pays its own way.

  8. Squander Two

    Lies, damn lies, and....

    > the firm had paid just £2.4m in corporate taxes in the UK last year, despite the fact that its sales were £4.3bn

    Why are you quoting taxes versus sales? Taxes aren't paid on sales; they're paid on profits. There is some suggestion by entirely serious people who know what they're talking about that the anti-Amazon tax campaigning is based on hypocritical self-agrandising political scapegoating, a total misreading of tax law, and inumerate bollocks. That may or may not be true, but El Reg could at least have the decency to put some meaningful figures in the article so that your readers can make up their own minds from an informed position. Tax versus sales is utterly meaningless.

    What were HMV's sales last year? Millions, I'm guessing.

    1. El_Fev

      Re: Lies, damn lies, and....

      @Squander Two OK obviously your young so I'll explain to you how it goes ...

      Starbucks have 4.3 Billion of sales.

      They make say 2 Billion profits

      They then tell the tax man that their head office, Starbucks Luxembourg, charges them 2.1 billion for use of their IP rights.

      Starbucks makes no "profit" in UK.

      Starbucks has 750 shops and been in this country for 14 years and never made a "Profit"!!

      In the case of Amazon you can be damn sure they made profit on their sales, they just ensured that they also made a lost to another whole owned Amazon company!

      1. Brenda McViking

        Re: Lies, damn lies, and....

        Starbucks also operates hundreds of franchise stores in the UK which are like any other small business and pay all local associated business taxes on their profits. Just because "Starbucks" the holding company uses tax efficiency to not pay tax in the UK (usually by means which the government INCENTIVISED - creating local businesses for one) does not mean that the exchequer doesn't take a healthy percentage of your £3 latte. They pay tax. Department B of Subsiduary C of Holding-company A might not (though it might be their UK head office), but that doesn't mean that the entire company isn't paying their lawful dues, does it?

        I too am young though, perhaps you could educate me?

      2. Squander Two

        Re: Lies, damn lies, and....

        Hi, El_Fev.

        If you're going to be condescending, try not to utterly fuck up the basic task of responding to the point actually made.

        You have chosen to explain how the profit figure can be manipulated, apparently under the impression that I don't know any of this very very basic stuff. Great, well done. But what I actually said was that no-one reading this article can make a judgement about the reasonableness or fictitiousness of Amazon's profit figure based on this article, because the figure's simply not in there. Instead, the article compares taxes to turnover, which is meaningless and -- by using the word "despite" to imply a relationship between the two figures that does not exist -- misleading.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lies, damn lies, and....

        I think you are a bit too young to understand grown up businesses El_Fev, it's not like the playground. Amazon makes bugger profit world -wide, take a look at there published accounts sometime. Starbucks then, try this for an exercise; add back their so-called excessive charges for coffee etc, and they still make a loss. The major reason appears to be that they are paying way too much on their various leases for property.

        But don't let it stop you being a greedy little bastard and demand that they pay tax on losses, just because you hate someone else making money that you can't leech off.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but surely the government position is also immoral

    if big multinational firms had to pay the sort of taxes being proposed there would be no point in them doing business internationally at all.

    Taxes cannot be avoided permanently and will at some stage be paid, in some form as money flows out of them to investors/employees etc. many of the supposed dodges are to avoid multiple layers of taxes in multiple countries.

    I am also a humble UK taxpayer and dont like paying my own but I assume if they paid more tax here some other country would therefore be deprived and simply move the problem on...

    Maybe they should encourage them to move there accounting HQ here which would be a better way forward.

  10. kbb


    "I haven't used Amazon for a year and I have found plenty of alternatives for buying goods online."

    Did you Google for those alternatives by any chance?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lets say Amazon starts paying more tax... what will happen?

    First, prices WILL increase.

    Second, the Gov will spend that money on shit that I (and you) don't care about.

    Consumers need to shut up before you ruin it for everyone.

    1. El_Fev

      Re: STFU

      What thins like defence, health care, social services , education the things the keep a country running and therefore allow it to spend money on discount books, those kinds of things? Seriously how stupid are you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: STFU


        Those are the things they should spend on, but I've seen news about a certain expensive train line lately, while making cuts in all the other areas.

      2. Vic

        Re: STFU

        > What thins like defence, health care, social services

        If only...

        I put in a bid for some NHS work a couple of years back.

        The job description had a budget attached of £7m. Even doing daft shit, I couldn't get my expenditure past £5m. And the job did go to someone who wanted the full 7.

        So although it seems like a good idea to put money into "health care", what you generally do is just to put money into consulting firms like Serco and Crapita.


    2. ByeLaw101

      Re: STFU

      Are you kidding me?

      "First, prices WILL increase."

      Well other sites managed to compete on price without massive tax dodges. I call bollocks on that one

      "second, the Gov will spend that money on shit that I (and you) don't care about."

      Uhu... Actually the Gov does spend money on shit that I DO care about, like the NHS, Emergency Services (All of them!) and people in the Public Sector need them for their pensions etc.

      "Consumers need to shut up before you ruin it for everyone."

      LIke allow for fair competition, so that British business can compete with the off shore companies? SO basically, your telling everyone to STFU and your justification is that you can get cheap goods from Amazon..

      1. Mike Street

        Re: STFU

        "LIke allow for fair competition, so that British business can compete with the off shore companies? SO basically, your telling everyone to STFU and your justification is that you can get cheap goods from Amazon.."

        Amazon's European HQ is in the EU - in Luxembourg. The EU is a Single Market - which you don't appear to have heard of. They can have their HQ wherever they damn well like in the EU.

        Don't like it - vote UKIP.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: STFU

      Paying a reasonable amount for products is not a bad thing. People need to understand that someone pays somewhere for cheap products. If you shop at Tesco and buy one of their loss led products, you will pay more elsewhere or the producer of the goods will pay for you. If you buy something heavily discounted on Amazon, it comes to you at that price because they treat their employees poorly and avoid tax left right and centre. Further problems are caused because it drives legitimate competition out of the market, because they can't or won't operate in this manner.

      1. Squander Two

        Re: STFU

        > People need to understand that someone pays somewhere for cheap products.

        No, people need to understand that trade only occurs when both parties benefit.

        > If you shop at Tesco and buy one of their loss led products, you will pay more elsewhere

        No, Tesco use loss-leaders as an incentive to get you into their stores. It's marketing. They don't need to make other products more expensive to compensate; they just can't afford to do it to all their products, that's all.

        > or the producer of the goods will pay for you.

        The producer of the goods will not sell them to Tesco if they don't benefit from the trade. Unless they're stupid.

        > If you buy something heavily discounted on Amazon, it comes to you at that price because they treat their employees poorly and avoid tax left right and centre.

        Take lightbulbs. I get all my lightbulbs via Amazon now, not because they're a few pence cheaper but because they are literally about 20% of the high-street price. Now, firstly, you simply can't achieve that level of price reduction by declaring less profit or shaving a few quid off your employee benefits. There's just not enough potential saving in those areas to allow a 70%-80% price drop. Secondly, Amazon are merely the go-between on these sales: various bricks-and-mortar hardware stores have sensibly become Amazon marketplace sellers and are making money by selling lightbulbs and fuses and so on nationwide where once they could only sell to locals. And you have no idea whatsoever about those various companies' tax affairs or employment conditions, so are in no position to claim that that's the only way they can compete on price. I note, though, that Margaret Hodge hasn't been dragging any of the small businesses who trade via Amazon up in front of her committee.

        > Further problems are caused because it drives legitimate competition out of the market, because they can't or won't operate in this manner.

        As, so you believe that some competition is legitimate but other competition is illegitimate. Who gets to decide which is which? You?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: STFU

          Your comments are rather naive - A dairy farmer can be worked out of business by a supermarket because they are a captive supplier - the supermarket can pretty much name their price and the farmers have to produce milk for it - This is a clear example of trade without both parties profiting and in result there is an alarmingly high suicide rate amongst dairy farmers.

          If you don't think that you pay for loss led products elsewhere how do you think that the supermarket makes a profit? They don't just take the loss to get you in, they make it up elsewhere to continue to make a profit.

          Powerful companies such as supermarkets can demand that their suppliers fund "buy one get one free" type of offers under threat of not having any more products sold. This is well documented and causes many companies to go out of business - if you've scaled up to supply a supermarket and they dump you, you've got loads of plant or product lying around unsed or unbought and you'll go out of business.

          I could go on...

          1. Squander Two

            Re: STFU

            > If you don't think that you pay for loss led products elsewhere how do you think that the supermarket makes a profit? They don't just take the loss to get you in, they make it up elsewhere to continue to make a profit.

            You're conflating two things here: making a profit and putting prices up on some products in order to cover price drops on others. The latter is not how pricing works. Tesco sell some products at a loss in order to get more people into their shops. The larger number of customers then buy more goods, thus increasing the amount of profit made without having to increase prices. In fact, the same mechanism can sometimes even work if other prices are reduced. This is, after all, why we have large cheap stores in the first place. If what you said were true -- that lower prices in one area are only possible if offset by higher prices elsewhere -- then Tesco would have loads of extremely expensive products. So, tell us, where are they?

            > A dairy farmer can be worked out of business by a supermarket because they are a captive supplier - the supermarket can pretty much name their price and the farmers have to produce milk for it

            I am well aware that dairy farmers collectively believe this nonsense for some reason, but it is simply not true. They occasionally claim that they're being "forced" to provide milk so cheaply that they're producing it at a loss. If this is true, they should throw it away and watch the price go up. I agree it would be a bit of a shame to have fewer dairy farms in Britain, but that's an aesthetic judgement, for which frankly not many people are willing to pay. From a business point of view, if milk is so cheap you can't make a living out of it, there is clearly way too much of it, and some dairy farmers need to move into a different line of work -- something which a lot of farmers have done very successfully.

            > Powerful companies such as supermarkets can demand that their suppliers fund "buy one get one free" type of offers under threat of not having any more products sold.

            No argument from me here. Yes, it's true: big business can be cut-throat. Which is why it's a good idea not to tie your company so exclusively to one retailer that you're at their mercy. But people do such things anyway.

  12. Amorous Cowherder

    Best of luck with that one!

    I only stick with Amazon as there is no quibbles about returns. Every time I've had to sort out a return they couldn't do enough to make sure I got it replaced ASAP. Not saying they are the best or the cheapest but I've had my fill of fighting with shitty companies who refuse to take back faulty items, yes COMET, PC World and Argos I'm looking at you with your, "Here's 20p phone the manufacturer and see if they give a flying f**k about your broken toy, 'cos we don't!" attitude!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Best of luck with that one!

      At the cost of repeating myself...

      Print out a copy and thrust it under their stupid box shifting noses.

      Works for me.

    2. Squander Two

      Re: Best of luck with that one!

      Yeah, Amazon's customer service is rather good. A few people here have been saying that Amazon aren't the best on price and you can get better deals by shopping around the Web. True, but it misses the point. Amazon are consistently cheap -- even if not the cheapest -- and are reliable. If I see I can get a product for £100 on Amazon or for £92 on some site I've never used before, I'll probably go with Amazon, as the time I'd spend trying to find out whether they're rip-off merchants before handing my credit card details over to them is worth 8 quid to me. Trust, reliability, familiarity: these things are worth a lot in retail.

  13. Derichleau

    Amazon shouldn't be allowed to operate a website either as they don't have a UK-based data controller. A website specifically targets UK individuals so the government should require those multinational companies that operate a website to register a UK data controller:

    1. barfle

      Does anyone still care about domains not ending in .com? Even the .com itself seems superfluous these days.

  14. i like crisps

    Call me cynical but...

    ...instead of Amazon, maybe the MP's have shares in John Lewis and Harvey Nick's and are looking to top up their own Xmas boxes?

  15. Roger Stenning

    So, this from the bunch that... themselves inflation-busting pay rises every year (I seem to recall the current or next one will be ELEVEN sodding percent?!), while the rest of us trogs find our spending power and disposable income shrinking year on year?

    I have two words for them one of which is rude, the other is "off".

    I'll buy from whoever gives me the best bang for my buck (so to speak), and the politicians, who it seems never seem to do what WE want, can go bugger themselves.

    1. Vic

      Re: So, this from the bunch that...

      > I have two words for them one of which is rude

      Not rude enough, my friend...


  16. Vimes

    This at a time when parliament is looking to store everything in 'the cloud'.

    Including sensitive documents. On servers run by Microsoft of all people.

    You really couldn't make this sort of stuff up.

  17. A Nother Handle

    Why is nobody talking about accountants?

    The big four accountancy firms (KPMG, E&Y, PWC and the other one) supply the Treasury with experts to draft tax laws. The same firms make a big pile of cash advising everyone else how to use the loopholes they helped create. /This/ is the root of the problem, though HMRC and the National Audit Office do their bit too.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Why is nobody talking about accountants?

      No, the root is HMRC and government allowing the laws to get so convoluted that they need such experts in the first place.

      I've never had to read it myself as I work in a different area within the company, but I still recall seeing a copy of Tolley's tax reference on the book shelves in the office. You know you're in trouble when you get a large book inches thick with pages so fine you can almost see through them, as well as text small enough to almost need a magnifying glass.

      Oh, and by the way on the spine it had the title 'Volume 1c'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why is nobody talking about accountants?

        Question of the day, for five points, who can tell us which of the following countries has the largest number of pages in the tax rule book?

        1. France

        2. United Kingdom

        3. Germany

        And for a further ten points, when stacked on its end, the height of said printed legislation

        1. barfle

          Re: Why is nobody talking about accountants?

          Tolleys vat law -summary- costs 400 quid per year and is an inch and a half thick. I didn't note the paper thickness, but I should point out that this is the -summary- and its only vat. I would imagine there are more words in uk tax law alone than in Britannica. Probably by a factor of three or four. Just guessing.

    2. barfle

      Re: Why is nobody talking about accountants?

      Because the international laws to which you refer were written in the days before the internet, with the agreement of a wide group of international economies. These days you couldn't get more than three countries in Europe to agree on anything. This has nothing to do with accountancy firms and everything to do with politics.

      If you have ever worked with an accountancy firm you'll know they milk you on churn. It doesn't matter what laws are written, as long as they don't give you a chance to get used to them. The accountancy firms don't charge you on profit, and they will charge you the same even if you run losses. So the only incentive they have is to push for more red tape (even better for them if it has zero tax consequences at all). If a politician wrote a tax law it would be a train wreck bogged down in legal muck for decades.

  18. Semaj

    Z Shops

    One of the things that these "boycott Amazon" lot always seem to forget is that a large amount of what we see on Amazon is actually provided through small, independent, tax paying retailers who could not even begin to survive the hideous shop rental prices if they couldn't supplement their sales through Amazon (and Ebay).

    So before talking about how evil Amazon are - think about the little guys who they keep afloat.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hodge: "I haven't used Amazon for a year"

    Quote of the week!

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Dear Google Search Engine.....

    can you tell me about Margaret Hodge's tax avoidance and expenses scandals please?

    What's that, suggestion? Do I mean "Hypocrisy"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear Google Search Engine.....

      Would that be the "tax avoidance" that the Telegraph were forced to apologise for:

  21. btrower

    If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

    Amazon is doing what we would all like to do. We should look into that. I am a Canadian socialist, but I think federal level taxation has become completely insane.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid Stupid Stupid or what

    Where does the VAT go on each Amazon/Starbucks/UK based company go?

    Just curious

    1. Squander Two

      Re: Stupid Stupid Stupid or what

      VAT is only ever paid by one group of people: end customers. The manufacturer and every supplier all pass VAT on down the chain till it reaches you.

    2. Vimes

      Re: Stupid Stupid Stupid or what

      In the case of Microsoft when buying a Technet subscription, unless you can provide a VAT number then it would appear that it goes to Ireland. Even if you're a UK based customer and have provided a UK address and a debit card registered to a UK based account.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tax avoidance = lower prices

    Simple equation really, Amazon works on really small margins so the less tax it pays the lower our prices. We are already paying 20% VAT as well as having been taxed on the income to begin with. How about the Govt spends a lot less then we can decide for ourselves what to spend it on?

  24. TheWeddingPhotographer

    If only they understood the web....

    Of course this really helps the "hard working, British tax paying" companies that happen to use Amazon as a sales channel


    If the Muppet in Government concentrated on making simple, un-ambiguous tax laws, they could leave the rest of us to do whatever it is we do best... run successful businesses and generate revenue for UK PLC

  25. bigtimehustler

    Errr, yes because on top of paying too much Tax myself I want to buy more expensive goods from a different retailer so that they can also pay you too much Tax? Hmmm, think i'll give that one a miss thanks.

  26. JDX Gold badge

    "Morally wrong"

    Translation: totally legal but we don't like it

  27. JDX Gold badge

    Never mind price

    When other stores can match Amazon on delivery (I have Prime, virtually everything comes next-day) and more notably, customer service, maybe I'll switch back. I'm not talking family stores for who every return is a real hurt, but big online stores... when something returns faulty or breaks in the warranty, do not ask me to post it to you so you can inspect it and decide if I get a replacement, and you'll reimburse me the postage. Do what Amazon does - send a replacement right away and then arrange a courier to come and collect the original.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never mind price

      If you think Amazon have good customer service - Try to find their phone number, on their web site in order to call up and report that they (not one of their affiliates) have not delivered something.

      1. Squander Two

        Re: Never mind price

        Their phone number is a bit awkward to find, yes, and I would certainly mark their customer service down a bit for that. But the service is still generally very good. And, to be fair, there's almost nothing one needs to actually phone them about now. The automated online systems for returning goods or for reporting undelivered goods are extremely easy. They used to be less good, but then the phone number used to be a bit easier to find too.

  28. TimEC

    Its not just about the MPs but about public services that are being undermined by unscrupulous companies (and yes often unscrupulous MPs).

    I think saying all MPs are useless/crooks isn't that helpful in any debate. Its like any profession some are useless/ crooks many are hard working and committed.

    We share your concerns re tax rules and hope they will be sorted as soon as possible but with numerous international tax treaties in place this will be a long and difficult battle.

    In the meantime we can all help make a difference.

    Ethical Consumer would urge people to shop around and use UK websites and retailers that pay a fairer rate of tax.

    It is possible to find good alternatives to Amazon check out our site for some of them -

    1. bigtimehustler

      The problem is, I think a lot of people are themselves fed up of paying stupid amounts of tax and so a fair amount of people feel empathy towards the companies avoiding equally outlandish tax rates. If the country was sorted out and services cut that are not needed and ones that are run efficiently I think both individuals and companies would see a tax rate that they would be happy to pay.

      Until then, I don't think the ethical choice is to boycott these companies, its actually to join them and get tax sorted out, not help the government squeeze yet more blood out of every stone it can.

      1. Alan Denman



        you are very creative with your truth.

        You will get the very same truth talk from right wing politicians bigging up a free market . The consequences of this is an eventual $1 an hour wages for the majority.

    2. Squander Two

      > shop around and use UK websites and retailers that pay a fairer rate of tax.

      Fair? What's fair about it? We have tax laws, which Amazon are not breaking, and not even Hodge is suggesting that they are. What exactly would be fair about them voluntarily giving loads of extra money to HMRC so that the public can pay higher prices?

      A lot of MPs right now are talking about the massive increases to the cost of living. How do they square that with their demands that companies not be allowed to sell stuff cheaply to the public?

  29. ukfreakster

    I get why people would want to boycott them, but perhaps like others have stated hmrc should get the tax issues sorted, In terms of service I can get something from Amazon and it will be here tomorrow. If I buy from large british firms, I find the couriers they use are not always reliable, in other words if I can get (and know I get) the service I want from amazon or go elsewhere , where the service could be (and usually is) sub-par, what reason can you give me to use that inferior service. As a consumer this is the main thing I would be thinking about in regards to should I use amazon this xmass.

  30. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    inept uk gov

    and even more inept UK Whitehall

    From the makers of "An Englishman's home is his castle" corrected to "An Englishman's home is his hovel"

    (UK homes are the worst in Europe, and that Europe goes all the way to Russia)

    With additional hits such as "The Greatest Debt in the history of the world" and "The best rewarded public servants and elected politicians in the world ever"

    "How to die in your own home in abject misery , poverty and freeze to death"

    "Don't worry it will soon be over. If you survive you might save 50 quid a year though unless price s go up that is"

    Is it not time we dispensed with government and the costs of such soon?

  31. Infernoz Bronze badge

    They are f'cking hypocritical career vampires; they are bleeding us dry!

    I won't take them seriously until they abolish Income Tax, so-called Capital Gains tax *, and all other personal leach taxes. * What f'cking gains? .. when they cause and allow Inflation of the Fiat (Fraud) Currency supply, which pushes goods prices up faster net than the so-called Capital Gains!

    If most people watched and got this

    , and realised that this applies to UK and most of the rest of the world too; then these Politician con artists would become redundant, and would have to try and find proper productive jobs; as would the mafia which uses the names Central Banks, Banks, Bankers, Traders, and other Vampire aliases.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personally, I think it is disgraceful for elected representatives to be suggesting a boycott of ANY business.

    What next? Telling us we shouldn't support *certain* charities?

    Have these people not got anything better to be doing?

  33. Doozer

    Im that pi***d off with the government complaining about companies that are using the tax rules to the fullest in order to maximise their profits. They are a business after all...

    With the Amazon staff in the UK complaining about their work (BBC 1 documentary...) I have now opted to buy from Amazon Germany.

    I see this as a positive for the following reasons:

    It means I am not running some poor Welshman round a warehouse that he does not want to work in.

    and more over....

    The SAME product is £90 quid cheaper from Germany! Even after looking at the exchange rate, bank fee for a Euro Purchase and the shipping fee. I don't care it has a Euro two pin plug on, I just put a british plug on it!

    If it was not for the nice chaps in London and the BBC all complaining about Amazon, I would not have looked around.

    Yes, I know that means I am no longer putting *any* of my money into the UK economy.....

  34. Nelbert Noggins

    I have also used Amazon Germany and occasionally France. Germany is often cheaper for electronic items and oddly lego. My nexus was £60 cheaper delivered to me than the next cheapest online/high-street store in the UK.

    Amazon also have a big advantage in economy of scale. Delivery charges, item charges are lower as they can buy bigger. Given the number of items bought from which get shipped from Germany and from .de and shipped from UK it suggests they use the currency market to buy and store in the cheapest purchase country.

    As for the "woe for small business" argument I'm sorry, this isn't just a blame Amazon issue. Many small independents in multiple product areas are closing down because one of their competitors expands and starts selling via the internet nationally or globally with great success or the supermarkets start selling the same items. Once again stock purchasing power and delivery contracts become better for those shifting more stock.

    I guess it's easier to jump on the "Amazon are evil" bandwagon" than accept you are in a market where the customer is no longer willing to pay full price and has alternatives that are more attractive.

    If you're too small to compete anymore and the only area you can compete is price, then you need to get out of the market or change your service to something they can't provide that people will pay for.

    I guess in the future when the MPs show-boat about not using a particular retailer they can just add it to the great firewall of UK PLC. I'm sure one of them will find a way to spin the blocking to be "protecting the children"

  35. Shaha Alam

    there's something very inconsistent...

    about encouraging people not to buy from a merchant who's legally allowed to operate in that way.

    surely the solution is to make it illegal.

  36. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    how about Amazon ...

    in Spain? At least morally we'd be supporting a nation and people in need and save a few pennies at the same time

  37. Alan Denman

    The only way is to ban them!

    Sadly, we all vote with our wallets.

    Their really needs to be a n 'ethical trading law'.

    This should be "Obey or Get out '.

    1. Squander Two

      "Obey or Get out"

      Obey what? The law? You mean, like Amazon are already doing?

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