Amazon’s meetings with European President revealed
Documents released in July revealed how Amazon met with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker four times in 2003 while he was president of Luxembourg. The meetings took place to discuss Amazon setting up its European headquarters there. The revelations come despite repeated assurances from Juncker that he never spoke about tax with Amazon.
Court documents submitted in the battle by US tax authorities to re-coup $1.3 billion of back taxes say that Juncker met with four senior Amazon tax officials between September 9th and 12th, 2003.
Newsweek report that, “the officials included Bob Comfort, a key player in setting up Amazon’s European tax structure; Jocelyn Krabbenschmidt, who served as Amazon’s director of global direct tax from 1999 until 2012; and Jeroen Pit, Amazon’s head of EU VAT (value-added tax).”
Juncker has consistently denied any wrongdoing saying, “It’s the tax authorities that develop the specific rules that are applied, I haven’t taken a position on individual tax dossiers because that also isn’t my role. The Luxembourg tax authorities are very allergic to the idea of ministerial interference.”
An Amazon spokesperson told Newsweek, “Amazon pays all the taxes we are required to pay in every country where we operate.”
In addition it has come to light that Amazon hired an economist from the global financial advisory company Deloitte in 2001 to review the various approaches that could be adopted to reduce its taxes.
Newsweek also report that documents outlining the US Internal Revenue Service’s findings show that Amazon hid key data from the IRS during an audit of the company’s tax arrangements in Luxembourg.
Tax justice campaigner Alex Cobham told Newsweek, “We always tend to give the benefit of the doubt to multinationals and talk about avoidance rather than evasion. But hiding relevant material does suggest the crossing of that line.”
New Amazon alternative online bookshop in London
A new online book store has launched offering another alternative to Amazon. Called NearSt, it is a website and an iPhone app that lets customers order from their local book store.
Currently only available in London, the company uses a network of couriers to deliver books in 60 minutes. Described as a hybrid of online and high street shopping the site allows users to browse the stock of around 40 bookshops in the London area. Books can then be purchased at the click of a button and delivered directly to customers, or be available for pick up.
Co-founder Nick Brackenbury describes the service as a challenge to Amazon. He told the Guardian:
“We think finding and buying something from a shop nearby should always be faster and easier than ordering it online. After all, there are hundreds of bookshops all over London, right on customers’ doorsteps. But today their inventory is invisible to shoppers’ smartphones, making an online retailer the easiest choice. With NearSt we’re changing that, by putting the incredible range and value of local shops within just a couple taps of someone’s smartphone.”
You can already select from over 100,000 products from bookshops all across London on NearSt, and the company will be adding more types of shops over the coming year. The platform takes 6% of each sale and there is no set-up or monthly fee for stores to join.
NearSt have been added to our guide to book retailers, part of our Amazon Alternatives series.