Eric Schmidt referred to the New Tech Oligarchs as the “Gang of Four”: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and, of course, Google. With the exception of Apple, all of these companies play a commoditization game and use their lobbying and litigation muscle to run roughshod over anyone–including governments–that get in their way.
We’ve seen this time and again with Amazon, a company that allows consumers to stand in a bricks and mortar retailer and order an item from Amazon while getting a product demo of the same item from the shop owner on the pretext of buying the good from the shop. The shop, of course, has to pay a number of items to the local community that Amazon does not, such as payroll taxes for local employees they hire and sales tax on the goods. Amazon, of course, would like you to believe they live on the “free” Internet, and is above paying local taxes like the retailers they rely on to demonstrate their goods. Yes, Amazon loves that Internet Freedom, and nothing says Internet Freedom like getting away with it.
Amazon has had its problems with sales tax and seems to be gradually losing that battle against fairness and justice, but not without a struggle. (These are the same people who started their sketchy cyberlocker business in the middle of the night without licenses so they could help steal your music and movies.)
Amazon has now run afoul of English shopkeepers–a potent force for good in the world. This time, the complaint is about how Amazon (not to mention other members of Schmidt’s Gang of Four oligarchy) dodges paying UK income tax.
According to the Independent (“World’s largest online retailer faces a new foe as bookshop takes fight to Amazon over tax“)
Frances and Keith Smith, 66 and 63, who run small bookshops in Warwick and Kenilworth, have started a petition on the campaigning website Change.org – which has 1.5 million British members – and hope to force Amazon to “do a Starbucks” and begin paying tax on its UK earnings.
Mr and Mrs Smith say businesses like theirs are being forced under by firms whose profit margins are artificially inflated by tax avoidance.
“Amazon benefits from the things that cost money: like the infrastructure; the stable market place and the judicial system and police forces, which uphold the right of ownership which allow us all to do business,” says Mrs Smith.
“I am not anti-Amazon, fair competition is fine. But, if they are not paying taxes on their UK earnings as we have to, it is not a level playing field.
Mrs Smith adds: “The politicians cannot get anywhere because Amazon is not breaking any laws; they are not even exploiting loopholes.” She thinks that public pressure, in the form of petitions and boycotts, has a better chance of getting the message across.
[Amazon] has come under increasing pressure over its tax avoidance scheme; amplified by the decision of Starbucks – which ran a similar scheme – to pay HMRC a lump sum and change its structure to begin paying corporation tax.
But, along with [Gang of Four member] Google – which has also faced criticism over its corporate structure, which allows it to minimise its UK operation’s taxable income – Amazon has held firm. Now, Mr and Mrs Smith hope their campaign will pile pressure on the company.
These Midlands booksellers have started a petition on Change.org calling on Amazon to “Pay Corporation Tax In the UK!” Like all these petitions (including the White House), there’s nothing that stops someone who doesn’t live in the UK from voicing an opinion by signing the petition.