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Amazon tax avoidance will hit UK businesses – John Lewis MD

Tax avoidance schemes like Amazon's could seriously hurt UK businesses, says John Lewis MD Andy Street

15 Nov 2012 Accountancy Age

By Calum Fuller

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THE "AMAZON TAX ISSUE" will damage UK-based businesses unless the government takes decisive action, according to John Lewis managing director Andy Street.

Without action against avoidance, Street said Amazon would be able to "out-invest" and "out-trade" UK companies.

"There is less money to invest if you are giving 27% of your profits to the Exchequer," Mr Street told Sky News's Jeff Randall. "Clearly, if you are domiciled in a tax haven, you've got much more [money]. They [Amazon] will out-invest and ultimately out-trade us. And that means there will not be a tax base in the UK."

He added that multinationals should be taxed on earnings on a country-by-country basis.

This week, Amazon's director of public policy Andrew Cecil appeared before the Public Accounts Committee alongside representatives of Google and Starbucks.

He was reproached for his lack of "serious" responses to their questions and was told a more senior executive who could provide more detail would be ordered to appear.

The online retailer has drawn substantial criticism for driving its UK sales through Luxembourg, despite employing 15,000 people across several warehouses in the UK.

Amazon's UK profit was £207m last year, Cecil told the committee, on which it paid just £1.8m.

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