Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

150,000 sign Amazon tax petition

Frances and Keith Smith hand in a petition signed by more than 150,000 people in Downing Street
Frances and Keith Smith (centre) with Margaret Hodge MP, Chris White MP and their son David Smith and daughter-in-law Jennifer Strejevitch

A couple who run two high street bookshops have handed in a petition signed by more than 150,000 people to Downing Street, calling on internet retailer Amazon to pay their fair share of UK tax.

Frances Smith, 66, and her husband Keith, 63, who run bookshops in Warwick and Kenilworth in Warwickshire, launched the petition on the campaigning website Change.org last December.

The couple, who live in Warwick, believe the internet retailer Amazon is putting unfair pressure on firms like theirs and driving many out of business by not paying their fair share of corporation tax. Among their supporters is MP Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, who accompanied them to Downing Street.

Author Charlie Higson and actor Stephen Fry have also backed the campaign. Fry tweeted a weblink to the couple's petition and wrote: "#AmazonUK may be useful but should they be getting away with funnelling their money through Luxembourg?"

Amazon hit the headlines last year after it was accused of "immorally" minimising UK tax bills along with Starbucks and Google in a damning report by the Public Accounts Committee. While Amazon's UK website reported a turnover of £207 million for 2011, its tax expense was just £1.8 million, the report said.

Starbucks took the decision to review its "tax approach" and pledged to pay a lump sum to HM Revenue and Customs over the next two years in light of the public pressure that followed. Mr and Mrs Smith, who set up their first shop in Warwick in 2004, are hoping their petition will force Amazon to follow suit.

Mrs Smith said: "150,000 people are telling the Prime Minister to take action on this issue.We've heard some warm words from Government on clamping down on the tax avoiders, but not so much action.

"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. 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."

A spokesman for Amazon said: "Amazon pays all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction that it operates within. Amazon EU serves tens of millions of customers and sellers throughout Europe from multiple consumer websites in a number of languages dispatching products to all 27 countries in the EU.

"We have a single European headquarters in Luxembourg with hundreds of employees to manage this complex operation."

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