Daunt questions Amazon over tax subsidies

James Daunt has restated his view that Amazon operates in an advantageous fiscal environment in the UK allowing it to aggressively grow its business at the expense of smaller high street stores.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Daunt questioned why Amazon should receive tax breaks to open warehouses that sucked jobs away from high streets. "What proportion of jobs do they create in a warehouse relative to the number they destroy on the immediate high streets around them, and why is the taxpayer funding this destruction?" he said.

Daunt said Amazon's "very business model is a job destroyer".

It is not the first time the Waterstones managing director has hit out at  Amazon—though his comments are given added weight as the retailer now has a deal with the internet giant internet to sells its Kindle e-reading devices in its stores. In an interview with The Bookseller, Daunt questioned a subsidy Amazon had received from the Scottish government for opening a warehouse in Dundee, saying that "they are putting on the dole queue countless numbers of relatively unskilled people who are going to find it extremely difficult to get jobs".

Daunt said the blame lay with politicians for creating a tax regime that allowed multinational companies to minimise their corporation tax bills, and said politicians should instead look to support the high street. "Amazon is an American. It has a fiduciary responsibility to minimise its tax, and it will minimise it," he told the FT.

Amazon's warehouse practises have been put under the spotlight recently by a number of investigations, including a major investigation in the FT and a documentary programme in Germany.

In a separate write-up of the FT interview, Daunt said that he expected to spend more than £20m this year refurbishing another 60 stores, having overhauled 40 in 2012. "The world has changed now because, if you want something, our friendly rivals at Amazon will get that through your letter box pretty quick and cheaply," he says. "Now it's all about the ambience and the environment that we create."