Shoppers looking for bargains this Christmas should give Amazon a miss because it doesn't pay its fair share of taxes, say a group of eight MPs led by the head of the public accounts committee, Margaret Hodge.
"Amazon is one of the global companies that aggressively avoids paying tax on the profits that they earn from the business they undertake in the UK," Hodge told Ethical Consumer magazine, which is running a campaign to boycott Amazon. "Not only is this morally wrong but it disadvantages every business from the local community-based bookshop to bigger, British-based companies like John Lewis and therefore endangers British businesses and British jobs."
Hodge famously called UK representatives of Amazon and Google before her committee earlier this year to give them a thorough telling-off for not paying their taxes. The retailer paid just £2.4m in UK tax last year, on sales of £4.3bn, thanks to being registered as a company in low-tax Luxembourg. It even received a grant of £2.5m to expand in Scotland, because it was creating jobs.
The other MPs who have joined the Ethical Consumer campaign are Natascha Engel, Meg Hillier, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Austin Mitchell, Grahame Morris and Dennis Skinner. All, like Hodge, are members of the Labour party.
"I haven't used Amazon for a year and I have found plenty of alternatives for buying goods online," Hodge says. "It's hugely important that we all take a stand and damage the reputation and business of companies that deliberately avoid paying their fair share of tax to the common purse for the common good.
"When times are hard and people are struggling, for big corporations to feel that they can choose whether or not to pay their fair share of tax is just wrong. Companies should act more responsibly."
"Amazon pays all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction that it operates within," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "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 28 countries in the EU. We have a single European Headquarters in Luxembourg with hundreds of employees to manage this complex operation."
Warehouse of horror
The gigantic online retailer has also been criticised this Christmas for overworking staff, with an undercover BBC reporter complaining of having to walk several miles each night shift.
Amazon has attempted to shift attention by announcing it's working on an armada of delivery drones -- battery-powered, computer-driven octocopters that will drop off your order in half an hour or less. It's the kind of fabulously malevolent, dystopic idea we can all get behind, but perhaps shouldn't distract from the company paying its way. Would it quit the UK altogether? Hodge thinks not.
"There are many things we can do," Hodge says. "We need to toughen up HMRC; toughen up and simplify our own tax rules and work internationally to bring tax rules up to date. We're far too timid and get scared off far too quickly with threats from businesses that they'll take their business elsewhere if the tax rules are changed."
Are you boycotting Amazon this Christmas? Which British companies do you think are better corporate citizens? Are a company's tax affairs something you should have to think about, or should the government be taking care of this stuff? Let me know what you think down in the comments, or over on our duty-free Facebook page.