Independent UK Booksellers Frances and Keith Smith have delivered a petition to Prime Minister David Cameron demanding he “make Amazon pay its fair share of UK corporation tax”. The Guardian reports the Smiths launched their petition in December 2012 and had nearly 160,000 signatures when they dropped it off today.
The Smiths explained their grievance as follows: “We face unrelenting pressure from huge online retailers undercutting prices, in particular Amazon, and it’s pushing businesses like ours to the brink. But what’s even worse is that Amazon, despite making sales of £3.3 BILLION in the UK last year, does not pay any UK corporation tax on the profits from those sales. In my book, that is not a level playing field and leaves independent retailers like us struggling to compete just because we do the right thing.” Amazon is allegedly “avoiding UK taxes by reporting its European sales through a Luxembourg-based unit” according to The Guardian piece.
If this is true, it seems like a no-brainer that Amazon give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; but the issue is likely complicated by the fact that Amazon operates online, which means they can be headquartered wherever on the continent is most cost-efficient and still be a more convenient buying option for European customers. Ah, the complexities of the digital vs print battle.
This scuffle marks the latest episode in a protracted battle between Amazon, bookstores, and publishers. Last month, Amazon Publishing announced it would pay their author royalties on a monthly basis, as opposed to the bi-annual schedule of traditional publishers. Amazon bypasses publishers to communicate directly with agents and writers. In response, major bookstore Barnes and Noble has refused to carry titles published on Amazon’s imprint, and sharply reduced orders of Simon and Schuster titles for a perceived lack of support by the publisher.