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Book Trade: Amazon – ‘Industrial scale tax avoidance’

Unbelievable: Amazon UK have paid just £4.2m tax on £4.3bn of sales, described in the Guardian as ‘Industrial scale tax avoidance’.

Surely the time has come for publishers to stop supplying Amazon? If I owned or managed a publishing house, I would be reviewing any policy that involved selling to them. Some will say that this is totally impractical and unrealistic. I’m not so sure. Many publishers privately say that they hate doing so, but love the sales that come from them and that it is commercial suicide not to supply them.

I am increasingly of the view that publishers are utterly complicit in this unfolding outrage. They have always treated Amazon to far better terms and now, like a drug they cannot stop using, they are hooked on the need for bigger and bigger sales, albeit at higher and higher discounts. These are terms that stock-holding bookshops can only dream about. Only this week, Amazon in the USA are said to be punishing Hachette by slowing down despatches from their warehouse until better terms are extracted.

This situation is intolerable, unethical, unfair and unjust. It is killing the UK High street and wrecking many a local economy. Society overall is worse off as the country receives less and less in taxes. Utter, utter madness and all in the name of speed, price and convenience. It seems perfectly summed up in the phrase; ‘Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing‘. Consumers and, I might add, publishers too are sleep-walking into a dependency on this monolithic and monopolistic giant. I hope that they feel it will have been worth it once there is nothing and no-one else left.

The daft thing is that there are some very good alternatives out there, Waterstones, W H Smith, Foyles and the Book People for general books, and for Christian titles; Eden.co.uk and other smaller Christian websites as well as the dwindling band of local Christian bookshops. The current call for a consumer boycott of Amazon is timely. We need to encourage as many of our own customers and friends as possible to join in.

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  1. May 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    My feeling is that it isn’t Amazon who are to blame for this: Amazon are only doing what the law allows them to do, and like most other businesses, they’re out to maximise their share of the marketplace and to only pay the taxes they’re legally bound to. Who hasn’t paid cash for an opportunity to avoid paying VAT? Very few, I daresay — even Vincent Cable seems to have admitted to it.

    The problem we have is a government that doesn’t govern — or rather, that only governs to keep the poor and vulnerable in their place. Us little people have no choice: we’re taxed at source on our earnings, then taxed again when we spend, and double-taxed on fuel with VAT levied on fuel duty; and no matter how much we pay into the system, the moment we fall on hard times and face unemployment, we’re the scum of the earth, treated like parasites. Shall I go on about the bedroom tax and all the other ways in which the government penalises the poor whilst feeding the the ever-increasing appetites of the rich and powerful?

    We pay the government to govern but they seem to think that companies should be allowed to govern themselves rather than face legislation. They refuse to clamp down on unfair competition, on unjust business practices, on takeovers and mergers, on business expansions that destroy communities and fail to legislate for a living wage at the bottom whilst allowing overpaid executives to cream off even more in bonuses that they neither need nor have earned.

    The situation is far worse than us sleepwalking into Amazon’s gaping maw: we have a government that actively feeds it.

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