Independent bookshop owners take tax fight to Amazon

By Tony Hudson

The government must force Amazon to pay more in corporation tax so independent booksellers can compete on a level playing field, a new petition is demanding.

The petition, which has reached the symbolically important threshold of 100,000 signatories, was started by independent bookshop owners Frances and Keith Smith in the hope the government would finally clamp down on the online retail giant's current tax policy, which they say is "bad for customers, bad for the high street and bad for the UK".

According to the petition, Amazon made £3.3 billion last year but it pays no corporation tax in the UK as they route all book and toy sales through a company in Luxembourg. If this was not the case, Amazon's tax bill could be as much as £100 million.

The Warwickshire booksellers claim this "unfair advantage" given to Amazon is pushing small, independent businesses to breaking point.

"Surely it's about time that all companies who choose to do business and make profits in this country pay a reasonable amount of tax on their operations, just like we do," Frances Smith said.

"Big companies' use of tax loopholes just adds to the continued assault on the high street and town centres about which we despair. Please let's see some decisive action now."

Supporters of the petition include Labour MP Margaret Hodge as well as numerous authors and book shops.

This is not the first time Amazon has been on the receiving end of this kind of criticism.

In November of last year, the public accounts committee (PAC) humiliated a senior figure from the company during an intense session of questions about their tax affairs.

Amazon and coffee giant Starbucks were harshly criticised by the PAC for "outrageous" and "immoral" avoidance of UK tax using legal loopholes.

Shortly after such a public shaming, Starbucks caved to political pressure and agreed to pay £10 million in extra tax to make up for their actions.

Amazon has yet to make a similar announcement, but the petitioners hope the government will force their hand.