Campaign News

Last updated: August 2016



Update on the Campaign Against Amazon


Amazon’s activities, especially those in the tax arena, are controversial in many countries.

is Amazon’s biggest market outside the US. There have been strikes at Amazon sites over working conditions, mostly led by a German union called ver.di. However, with the exception of some reporting by the campaign group ATTAC, there hasn’t been much campaigning on tax, although it has been publicised that Amazon has been paying very little corporation tax in the country.

A strike in 2014 at the Amazon warehouse in Bavaria. Photo Credit: Hubert Thiermeyer/ver.di


In France, Amazon has been prevented from becoming so dominant as book prices have been regulated to protect local booksellers. The government demanded $252 million in unpaid back taxes from Amazon in 2012, which Amazon disputed.

In Poland, Amazon is planning to invest heavily in “special economic zones,” to which companies are being lured with the promise of long holidays from paying tax.

In Japan, Amazon has avoided paying tax by claiming that it has no ‘permanent establishments’ in the country. According to OECD rules, warehouses are not permanent and don’t count. However these rules may be about to change, which will mean that Japan will finally be able to tax Amazon.16

In the United States most of the discussion of Amazon’s tax affairs has been around its avoidance of sales taxes, which are similar to VAT but are collected by each individual state (the US has no national-level sales or value-added taxes). Internet sellers don’t have to pay sales tax in states in which they lack a physical presence and, in many states, Amazon has engaged in spectacular contortions to try to claim that they don’t have one.

Amazon is sometimes quite brazen about its attempts at tax avoidance. CEO Jeff Bezos said in an early interview in 1996 that he had attempted – and failed – to set the company up on a Native American reservation in order to avoid paying US taxes. (The reservations have special tax rules).




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.



Amazon Focus

Amazon and Tax: The Latest 

With Amazon's growth apparently unstoppable, are there any regulators out there trying to prevent its systematic tax avoidance from further distorting UK markets?

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