'Try W H Smith, not Amazon', says Mirror

Newspapers have appealed to consumers to boycott Amazon this Christmas following its statements to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee investigating how much corporation tax it pays (12th November).

The Mirror has published an article entitled Fairer Trading: Your essential guide on how to Dodge the Tax Avoiders, in which it appeals to customers to “try WH Smith” instead of Amazon if “you want to make sure a chunk of your cash goes to the government.” WHS, the Mirror reports, paid £10m in tax on £93m profits recently.

The article also quotes Waterstones founder Tim Waterstones saying: “No one is ­questioning the strict legality of Amazon’s UK tax structures, but many of us are  questioning the spirit and ethos.”

The Guardian recently asked its readers if they should be boycotting multinational companies such as Starbucks and Amazon, which have their headquarters based in Luxembourg, which offers a low tax return.

The Guardian’s article quoted chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, saying she would avoid using such companies. “From now on I will be putting away my Kindle and feeding my caffeine addiction somewhere other than Starbucks. We know that Amazon, Google and Starbucks are raking in profits from their economic activity in Britain but using a range of devices to avoid paying their fair share of corporation tax . . . .It may be legal but it is not right.”

She added: “Consumers can use their power too. By boycotting these companies we not only voice our anger but hit them where it hurts . . . So I will be buying my grandchildren's Christmas presents from John Lewis, not Amazon, this year.”

Amazon’s director of public policy Andrew Cecil appeared in front of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee last week (12th November) to answer questions about the company’s structure and UK earnings, along with executives from Starbucks’ and Google. Cecil failed to answer many of the MP’s questions, resulting in a demand for Amazon to send another executive to answer questions in front of the committee at a later date.

The government’s business secretary Vince Cable has also spoken out in criticism of “completely unacceptable” corporation tax avoidance. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday (18th November): "There's nothing more galling to small and medium-sized enterprises when they are paying [tax], and others are dodging it," Mr Cable said. "Our own tax authorities have got to be very tough on things like royalty payments, which is where a lot of the subterfuge takes place."

However, he said the answer was not easy and would require international agreement.

Meanwhile the Daily Mail has reported that Amazon’s company in Luxembourg—Amazon EU Sarl—is the one that actually charges British consumers for their goods and made a £16m profit, but parent company Amazon Europe Holding Technologies, also based in Luxembourg, made £241 million.