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Friday
Jan182013

Why I won’t boycott Amazon any day soon

 

A lot of sanctimonious twaddle is being voiced about Amazon’s perceived failure to ‘pay UK tax’.  Show me the tax bill that Amazon has not paid.  Some individuals complain that they themselves have to pay income tax, NI, Corporation Tax and the like (don’t we all?), so they expect Amazon to do the same to help pay for Britain’s schools ‘n hospitals and all that jazz.

Unfortunately some people who probably live on someone else’s payroll just don’t get the idea of ‘business’. If I ran a book store, I’d certainly have been very hacked off by Amazon, but if I had a grocery or fishmonger I’d feel the same about Tesco or Sainsburys. That’s just free market forces at play, pure and simple, with international businesses trading in Britain just as you’d expect. As consumers with freedom of choice, you pay your money and make your choice, and personally, I don’t need anyone’s help in doing precisely that.

Every time Amazon posts a Facebook entry, some ex-Amazon user follows up with some self-righteous, high-minded piffle.  They cite Starbucks (UK) as having ‘done the right thing’ by ‘paying some tax’.  Nope, Starbucks made a voluntary donation, which probably came out of their marketing budget petty cash.  My guess is that they figured it’s money well-spent to appease their typical touchy-feely clientele who have difficulty in dealing with the mature world of business or (worse) the concept of retained profits.

Since when is tax paid on a voluntary basis? All kinds of business from owner-managers right up to MNCs instinctively organise their affairs to minimise the level of tax they are forced to hand over for Governments to spend irresponsibly. Most discerning individuals do the just same with their savings accounts, school funds, pensions, ISAs and so on.

Personally, I cringe when confronted by those who’ve probably used Amazon for half of their young lives already and don’t understand the world of big business.  Amazon is exactly that, a successful multi-national business, not a welfare vehicle for impoverished Brits. It bet the ranch in the 1990s by building a new site in the USA and burning lots of cash at the same time. It is a success but it could easily have gone the other way and failed. (In the USA, success is of course celebrated, but many a Brit relishes the Schadenfreude of business failure over here, like it serves them right for having tried.)

Amazon has enriched customers’ lives in many ways, including Amazon Marketplace, which allows thousands of small independent traders to sell online – some small firms I know are doing a roaring trade and creating local jobs and paying taxes, all thanks to Amazon. Also I can download individual MP3s, or sell books from my collection using Amazon. I might only make a few pounds, but the service works extremely well and Amazon connects interested booksellers and buyers with each other and pays bang on time. I know my books will go to a good home, which is better than dumping books in a charity shop; the last one I visited told his colleague to ‘dump it in the back with all the other stuff.’

I could always order direct from Amazon.com instead, just like I used to in the 1990’s long before Amazon came to the UK and Germany (when, I can add, no-one had hardly heard of Amazon in the UK at the time). The only difference is that it’ll take a bit longer for my goods to arrive. Unlike any earnest halo-wearing boycotter, I believe in the free market and I can decide where to buy from for myself, thank you.

If you don’t like the idea of overseas companies doing business here, then change the law and see what happens.

Amazon's three new UK warehouses will create 2,000 jobs by 2014

Amazon creates 1,000 new jobs in Liverpool

Google has spent £1 billion on a new building near King’s Cross, London, which will consolidate their other UK operations. BBC News link.

Starbucks tax 'donation' angers critics (The Guardian)

Brits are so outraged by Amazon, they voted it TOP for shopping (Christmas 2012) (The Register)

Ministry of Defence wastes £6.6 billion (of taxpayer's money) on supplies it does not need (Daily Mail)

£5 billion of savings (of taxpayer's money)  possible in NHS (Daily Telegraph)