NEWS

Amazon fights back over £221m unpaid tax fine

Published on: 9th August 2018

The internet retail giant has been branded “arrogant” after it emerged it is appealing against a £221m fine over unpaid taxes.

At the same time, new figures show Amazon UK’s British tax bill has fallen to its lowest level in five years – despite profits soaring. The fine levied by the European Commission came after it found Amazon was given illegal tax benefits by Luxembourg.

As reported by The Express, the company was ordered to pay the money last year. Amazon confirmed that last Friday it had paid but said it was appealing through the European courts. Tax experts have criticised the company’s decision and said Amazon had played a role in the “destruction” of the British high street.

Corporate tax expert Phoebe Griffits, of KIS Finance, said: “Amazon’s decision to challenge the commission’s ruling is another clear example of the retail giant’s arrogant stance when it comes to paying their dues.”

She accused Amazon of “playing the system” to minimise its UK tax liabilities.

“While it is quick to point out that it has complied with its legal obligations, other retailers of similar sizes in the UK are paying up to 20 times the amount of tax,” she added. “If this inequality is allowed to continue the future of the UK high street remains at risk.”

Alex Schlagman, founder of SaveTheHighStreet.org, said: “We have to find a way of levelling the playing field as the system is currently set up for Amazon to benefit. Amazon is behaving in a way to optimise its own gain and it has a negative knock-on effect. The failure of the high street impacts everyone.”

Amazon UK’s corporate tax bill fell by £2.8m last year despite pre-tax profits nearly trebling. Its UK bill was £4.6m, down from £7.4m the year before, Amazon UK Services accounts show. But the company paid only £1.7m in tax after deferring £2.9m.

That was despite pre-tax profits jumping to £72.4m from £24.3m in 2016, according to figures filed at Companies House. The lower tax bill was partly due to Amazon making share payments to thousands of staff.

Amazon stated: “We pay all taxes required in the UK. We have invested over £9.3b  here since 2010. This year we plan to create 2,500 permanent jobs to bring our workforce in the UK to over 27,500.”

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