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Amazon had sales income of €44bn in Europe in 2020 but paid no corporation tax (theguardian.com)
94 points by quaker5567 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 151 comments





This story comes back again and again. And it makes no sense, because businesses pay tax on profits, not revenue!

It sounds outrageous that a big company does so much business and doesn't end up paying lots of taxes, maybe it's suspicious, but it's only a necessarily problem if you make some flawed assumptions about how the business works.

There are different theories about the social value of enterprise, but in general businesses are meant to reinvest revenue into developing the business, and only taxed on what is taken as profit, such as to be payed to shareholders. That this incentivizes direct reinvestment is a feature, not a bug. It's just that amazon takes this to an extreme in prioritizing reinvestment over profit.

Does Amazon also structure its operations to optimize its tax posture? Of course, they're obliged to as a publicly traded company.

Overall is this an optimal/fair situation? Probably not. But the problem is really an inevitable outcome of the way that tax laws are setup. Amazon's only major moral failing here is simply in being a large multinational, with an expansionist business model.


The story is that - certainly in the early days - you could be fired from Amazon as a manager if your section made a profit.

The argument is that your entire focus as a software / service business is growth (aimed at profitability for some undetermined future date). If your section or company is making a profit this represents a failure to utilise all of your resources for the purpose of growth.

As a multi-national there are various tax shenanigans you can play - that is up to governments to decide how to crack down on those. The unfortunate fact is that you need countries like Ireland on board who have benefited greatly from being very corporation tax friendly.


Amazon did pay taxes in USA during that period though. They just shuffled around all their profits such that no taxes were paid in Europe.

In ways that smaller companies don’t, large organisations have choice about where they pay taxes, and that’s highly unfair both to companies and to countries. Hard not to see this leading in the long run to taxation on turnover.

And yet not much consumer boycotts are happening, hard for me to understand that. In Germany, it’s really easy to not use Amazon – prices aren’t exclusively low on Amazon and because you have 14 days return rules and the deliveries done via the same delivery companies (I know Amazon does some of it on its own, but it’s not any better than the rest in my experience) it’s really not more superior in the general case to any other online shop. Anyway, if you are in Germany, use idealo.de or similar price comparison websites to compare the prices for the item you want and try to avoid Amazon if you can. Fuck Amazon and other schemers avoiding real taxation. It’s nasty. They use public services for their infrastructure, they benefit of the consumer society in the EU, they should pay taxes, really simple.

Amazon's product offering is also seemingly getting worse, lots of five-star rated products which feature obviously paid reviews and are cheap copies. Other retailers feature good-quality brand names.

For technical hardware I can recommend geizhals.de over idealo.


  >Amazon's product offering is also seemingly getting worse, lots of five-star rated products which feature obviously paid reviews...
I find ReviewMeta[0] pretty useful for flagging up this kind of thing and returning a rating which is more fairly weighted.

[0] https://reviewmeta.com/


I was hoping for a friend to buy a laptop for me in Germany (generally low availability of new products where I live) and was positively blown away with how detailed and useful their (geizhals.de) search based on laptop specs is. Excellent stuff.

Nice, thanks for the recommendation!

I would love to boycott amazon, but its near impossible. In France especially with the lockdowns, most of my groceries are delivered either via amazon (for next day delivery) or from Monoprix, but that is generally two days in advance. Luckily these days I have been able to push to Monoprix directly.

For non food items, amazon are still one of the cheapest once you include delivery and interestingly, even with Amazon Prime Delivery in France, almost all items are cheaper in Amazon.de including paying the 5 euro shipping to France, so I order a lot from there too.

Looking at idealo.fr for me on all my items I bought in the last few months, they are the same price as what I paid, but are all 3 euro or more including shipping. So as a consumer, amazon is still pretty much the cheapest.

Ultimately, I could save buckets by just going to the shop, but that won’t start for me until Q3.


There was a time when we gathered a group of friends to order books from Amazon (USA) to Spain to share shipping costs. We were students and waiting a month to save a few bucks was worthy.

I'm buying less and less from Amazon recently. And I no longer "go shopping" to Amazon and just go there to check prices. I think other companies are catching up and I was surprised when my latest laptop was delivered from a traditional retailer (El Corte Inglés) in under two hours. Just to share some anecdata.


I'm from France and it was relatively easy to boycott Amazon for a lot of things, even after years of being a big prime user. I agree there are no good direct replacements, for me the solution was different consumption altogether (going to local food markets for food, buying less crap, going to specialized physical or web shops for board games, books, music, electronics, even if it means paying a little more it's great for socializing, etc...). Buying on Amazon is highly correlated with buying plastic from China for me, so it's a double or triple win. But yeah I still go to Amazon for tech.

  >I would love to boycott amazon, but its near impossible
I've found I use Amazon a lot less since they upped the price of Prime. When it was £49 for the year, I used to buy almost everything on Amazon because I really hate actual shopping [as in traipsing round real bricks & mortar shops]. And £49 a year was a good bargain to get all that stuff delivered free.

Then they put Prime up to £80 a year and bundled a load of shite I don't want with it [chart music and crappy American telly]. So I only ever have Prime these days whenever I get offered the 99p for a month's trial.

What I find myself doing a lot now is looking up something on Amazon, reading the reviews and then, if it's under £20 and doesn't qualify for free delivery, I get it off eBay instead --where all the same sellers are selling all the same things, but usually with free postage.

I realise that's just swapping one tax-avoiding US megacorp for another. But, to be honest, I couldn't care less about how much tax big companies avoid paying. Fair play to them for 'socking it to the man'. Does anyone seriously think that, if they coughed up their fair share, the taxman would reduce what he bleeds off the rest of us?


My experience has been that Prime doesn't even mean fast delivery anymore. My wife and children use the streaming service, or I would have dumped it years ago.

Yes. Prime "One Day Delivery" used to nearly always mean you got the item the next day. Now it seems to mean "One Day Delivery --after we get around to dispatching it"

I guess we are lucky here in Berlin to have many of these companies sell the items at original prices directly. Also most will have 20-50€ minimal amount that allows then for delivery to be free. Sure, you might need to batch a purchase, but is it not a good cost to pay a company [and its employees] directly instead of the tax avoiding american company known for being terrible to its employees? [not so much in EU because we have laws here, but still]

Why haven't local shops switched to deliveries in France?

I can only speak to my experience but I've always felt that french society is aggravatingly slow to adapt to modern technology. During the height of the pandemic we'd get documentaries on small businesses struggling, it'd often be the same speech from the owners "I hate the internet, I don't want to use it but it's been 6 months and I'm on the verge of bankruptcy and my child has been begging me for years to get an online presence so maybe I'll do the bare minimum."

In Germany, I would still use Amazon over the local companies that have no idea what customer support is. Until they learn to care more about customers you really have no choice. I’ve banned German retailers in my household for that reason.

Can you be more specific about your experiences? I live here for 10 years and never had a bad experience with an online shop that sells items per delivery. The law makes it equal for everyone – you can return the stuff, you can get stuff replaced if it’s broken and anything else. What type of bad experience you had with other online retailers?

> What type of bad experience you had with other online retailers?

Shipping, shipping, shipping. Amazon ditches shipping providers that provide low quality, with web shops you as the customer have to pray that the shop isn't using <insert name of logistics company that has a particularly moronic local agent here>.

Many German shops ship with DHL which is expensive but has somewhat consistent quality, a wide net of post offices and Packstation lockers where you can pick up stuff yourself and (at least to my knowledge) does not engage much in using shoddy contractors. Others however... are cheap for a reason and the reason is usually underpaid to outright enslaved staff, pressured so hard by ridiculous delivery quota that they count a "not at home" delivery within 5 seconds of ringing the bell and no one answering.

Friends of mine lived in a new constructed area and they had a hard time of getting packages from anyone but DHL for months because the other services always returned packages with "unable to find address". DHL has the advantage that they are connected with the national post service which means the cities and counties provide them with always fresh information about construction works, whereas the competition is stuck on sometimes months old data.


My experience with Amazon delivery is comparably bad – the fact that Russia has figured out "drop boxes" and Germany hasn’t (very slowly it’s being rolled out now) is extremely strange to me. The need to "Accept" delivery instead of placing it in a locker is just stupid and requires so much unneeded energy spent by the delivery people and the receiving side it’s very strange.

Exactly same story about new building applied for 2-3 months to a friend and Amazon would simply refund him instead of making any attempts at figuring out how to deliver. It’s the same contractors who have no incentive to really deliver anything.

A lot of the success of Walmart and Amazon is just them not tolerating mediocrity.

It would be great if Amazon would extend the same non-tolerance towards scammers on the seller side though. Fake products, co-mingling and "we give you 10€ gift card for 5 star review" is way too common.

I can highly recommend otto.de and their customer service - up until now, every time I called the customer service, everyone was extremely nice AND helpful. Delivery of even heavy household articles such as washing machines is extremely easy. Just a great service overall.

While in Germany simply use extensively the unconditional right to return within 14 days. Dealing with condenscending asshole customer support so prevalent there is not worth picking up the phone even, I agree.

Well, a lot of people also only care about the cheapest possible price or product, same goes with the fast delivery (I see this in a lot of colleagues). We've been using Amazon less and less, and only for the low grade products that we need quickly for an emergency maybe - or for books on the kindle. But the quality, at least in Germany seems to be worse and worse. I would never trust buying anything that I want to use every day on Amazon. There are a lot of alternatives, and I know a lot of people don't like them, but I find Otto quite good and fast, and in the end would always pay a bit more to make sure the products are genuine.

In Spain, Amazon is pretty decent.

I prefer it for buying general stuff just because the delivery is fast and reliable and they have a good choice of items.

For important items though like my monitor, computer components, various electronics stuff where I can't risk getting a dodgy gangplug or whatever I use PCComponentes.

The flood of low-quality and even counterfeit items makes it pretty useless for buying electronic goods.


The question is not whether Amazon service is decent, there is no doubt it is. The question is at what expense and who you support with your money. We are discussing the fact that Amazon is evading taxes so your Spanish roads that they use, the Spanish infrastructure etc is not benefitting from Amazon benefiting off you.

Amazon has built so much goodwill with me it'll take mountains before I start boycotting it. If they're subsidized by reinvested profits, all the better.

Here's my requirements list for stores I'll patronize: online presence, less than one week delivery, relatively cheap delivery, good selection of items, honest refunds UX, UI patterns that don't say "we're trying to fuck over our customers". Amazon has had all that for 10+ years when no other store would do it, and most stores still don't manage.

The majority of small businesses in my country refuse to do as little as a facebook page and are not accessible so I won't give them money.

For food delivery from supermarkets, I checked a few years back the delivery cost more than the food and they wouldn't ship heavy items.

Almost all other online stores I try to use rely on dark patterns to trick customers, either with fake prices, fake reviews, hidden shipping policies, hidden costs that only appear at the last step of the checkout, complex refund flows, etc...


> consumer boycotts are happening

I agree with the rest of your comment, yet calling for a boycott of a company that has reached a monopoly position in the US, and will do so soon in Europe (attained through labor rights abuses and union suppression, dirty accounting/law tricks, and lobbying (read: bribery)), is impractical and somewhat misguided. “Billionaires are a policy failure“ - this is a systemic problem and needs a systemic solution.


Luxemberg and Ireland are both part of the European Union. Maybe allowing individual member states to operate as tax havens is not benefitting the Union as a whole?

Even Luxembourg and Ireland have non-zero corporate income tax rates. If Amazon is managing to not pay any corporate income tax, then it's corporate income must be 0 or negative, so the fact they have low corporate income taxes is irrelevant.

The tax rate is a single easy number to point to. But there also is lax to nonexistent enforcement and a very lenient tax code to start with. There have even been cases where member states refused to collect taxes that were due, where European courts tried to force the states to collect (Apple in Ireland is a famous example).

That's not what happened. The European Commissioner for Competition decreed that Apple had received illegal tax benefits from Ireland and ordered Apple to pay a fine of €13 billion. This was appealed to the European General Court, which ruled in favour of Apple and struck down the Commissioner's decision as illegal.

No that’s not what happens either.

Apple wasn’t sued or fined and didn’t go to court, the ruling compelled Ireland to collect additional tax from Apple and Ireland was the one who went on and spent tax payer money on appealing the decision in the EGC.


Their nominal tax rates is not the issue. Allowing entire profits realized in EU to leave to the Bahamas through layers of companies incorporated in Luxembourg/Ireland/Netherlands is.

Is there some reason why wholly owned subsidiaries should pay income tax at all in other countries? I own assets in the US, but I don't pay income tax there, because I live in another country, where I pay income tax on my worldwide income. Amazon "lives" in the US (headquarters are in Seattle, WA), so why would it pay income tax in other countries? Its wholly owned subsidiaries are just parts of the whole, and should be taxed as such.

It isn't. But the tax havens, mostly Malta, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Ireland block everything that limits their shenanigans. Unfortunately the EU is ruled (depending on the topic) by a double-majority of 60% of population and states or unanimously. The latter is usually used in financial topics. So this will never change.

Don't be so sure it will never change.

Until last year the EU had zero involvement in healthcare and public safety, that was every nation's own private garden.


> "Amazon’s revenues have soared under the pandemic while our high streets struggle, yet it continues to shift its profits to tax havens like Luxembourg to avoid paying its fair share of tax."

But it reported a 1.7B loss in Luxembourg. So where are the profits going? Reinvested in the business?


Don't Apple and Amazon etc use licencing to artificially put their subsidiaries in debt?

E.g. Amazon Cayman Islands licences its branding etc to Amazon Luxumbourg which basically has to pay an exorbitant amount for it, enough so it's always in debt and therefore pays no tax. Of course, they're owned by the same company so money stays in the family but taxes are avoided.


According to Amazon Inc's 2020 10-K filing, Amazon's international subsidiaries paid almost $5bn in royalty fees back to the US parent company[1]. It's hard to make a profit in Europe after you pay all those hefty fees!

[1] https://www.taxwatchuk.org/amazon-tax-structure/


There are no profits. Amazon loses money in europe

Ok, so when are they going to stop operating in the market then? They're consistently losing money they should just shut down right?

They need to operate AWS in Europe in order for AWS to be competetive - you can't run a cloud just in the US. It could be unprofitable indefinitely, but so long as the US business makes enough to cover the losses, it's fine.

As for retail - generally their retail segments start out unprofitable but eventually turn a profit. Amazon is in it for the super-long game, they didn't make an overall profit for 20 years and Bezos is against paying dividends to investors when the money could be reinvested.


No, they are making capital investments in order to make more money in the future. They still have huge opportunity to expand their operations in europe.

Not necessarily, it depends on their strategy for the future.

If I make 100m in profits and then hire an 'advisor' that will help me improve my business for 100m, who happens to be working out of tax haven and also works for company I own.

My company made 0 profits and I have 100m in my tax haven accounts.

Of course this is a hyperbole but you get the point.


Dream on

I find it remarkable that in this sort of case the public sentiment is to hate on the corporation, rather than on the governments who set the (byzantine) tax rules that the corporation is following.

When the corporation also owns news outlets, heavily subsidizes political parties, spends on lobbying, they are very much a political entity, and a major shaper of the system.

Treating them as rats in a labyrinth makes no sense when they're the main creators of the labyrinth.


One can do both. If theft and murder was to be made legal I wouldn't start doing it, would you? I hate this narrative where corporations are just assumed to be morally obliged to do everything to increase their profits. Corporations should be regulated and be inclined to do the right thing even if no one's watching, just like ordinary citizens.

> just like ordinary citizens

Have you ever paid more than what you were required to?


There is a difference between using laws as they were intended to be used and hiring a literal army of accountants and lawyers to find holes in the law.

I don't see the difference, can you shine the light?

It's acting in good faith versus acting in bad faith. If I agree to something with a supplier for example, I expect them to act in good faith, not seek out the edges in our agreement. I would not do business with someone like that. Just because you can does not mean you should.

Many people leave tips

One thing is directly paying more a person for a service, another thing is being forced to pay a percentage of your income and then wanting to pay even more. You can if you want, but I wouldn't condemn someone for deciding to follow the law and pay as low as he can.

The UK at least tried to impose taxes and the US threatened us with sanctions. I am not aware of the exact details but its clear there is some will to change it but there is a lot of strong opposition to it as well.

The UK tried to impose taxes on revenue on exclusively American companies, which is exactly equivalent to a tariff. Threatening tariffs in the other direction is a very reasonable response in trade disputes.

Do you also find it remarkable that people don't despise the people who get defrauded more than the fraudsters?

Fraud != Paying the amount of taxes you're required

You're not "required" to relocate part of your business to a tax haven, invent a royalty that part of your business owes to another part of your business to zero that business's profit or declare that the sales to local businesses your local account managers are paid commission on are actually completed in a different office overseas.

Doing so is every bit as much of a conscious choice as pretending your blood testing product actually works or that the funds for Peter's ROI don't come from Paul


You have the duty to your shareholders to increase the profits as much as possible within the legal framework. So, yeah, you are required to do so if it means it's profitable.

A statutory duty to increase profits as much as possible within the legal framework "requires" you to come up with strategies to artificially decrease recorded profits to pay less corporation tax? Rrrrright....

I mean, there are literally millions of companies worldwide that aren't even remotely tax efficient never mind inventing artificial royalties to shell companies in tax havens which they could if their directors wanted to... why are they not being sued by their shareholders?

Could it be because actual company law allows management an enormous amount of discretion in how they run the company, except in cases of obvious conflict of interest or failure to care? And not deploying aggressive tax avoidance strategies isn't considered to be conflict of interest or failure in a duty of care anywhere?


Because the byzantine tax rules are set by those same corporations through lobbying (aka corruption).

Don't hate the player. If the problem is corruption, then amazon is the wrong target if you want meaningful change.

You can hate both.

And you can definitely hate the player.


You can hate all you want, but by just hating you won't change anything.

It's truly baffling to me that people don't see very clearly that Amazon is not the problem here.


No one said that all people want to do is hate Amazon, but if you want to get this fixed you have to highlight and build hatred of this system (including both Amazon's role in it and the regulatory capture) because that's how you campaign for change in a democracy.

Yet there is no discussion of the system, only mindless finger pointing at Amazon. It would be more productive to discuss the changes that should be made to tax laws.

From the article:

>“President Biden has proposed a new, fairer system for taxing large corporations and digital companies but the UK has not come out in support of the reforms. The silence is deafening. The government must act and help to grasp this once-in-a-generation opportunity to banish corporate tax avoidance to a thing of the past.”


I don’t see that quote as being too relevant. If a country in the EU wants more tax revenue, then that country or the EU should change its laws.

I’m unclear why Biden or the US applies in this case.


Just pointing out that the article does literally talk about the legislative efforts that are happening internationally to tackle this. Which is exactly what you were questioning.

> If a country in the EU

> but the UK has not come out in support of the reforms.

Oh, the irony :-))


Hah, guess we’ll stop seeing these articles about Amazon not paying UK tax after this year.

You don't need hate to be built up. You just need to provide effective solutions. Or at least some kind of solutions, so it can be discussed. What you're doing now is just saying "Amazon bad". That won't solve anything.

There are already tonnes of proposals, none of them get traction because there's no pressure to act. That's where the hate comes in - people need to be outraged in order for politiicans to be motivated to change things.

I am really amazed by the comments saying "they did not make profits so it is reasonable they do not pay any taxes". You are skipping the whole point which is that a company that made 44bn sales income didn't really make 0 or negative profits, they are simply tax evading.

I also think that this is very useful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4o13isDdfY


Tax evasion is illegal. If you get caught you'll usually be fined and have to pay the tax.

Tax avoidance is what Amazon does, and so should everyone else.

Having said that, I tend to agree with the thrust of your comment, that being: we should close, probably, close these avoidance avenues the for the ultra-wealthy. It's probably an intractable problem though, because the ultra-wealthy make the rules.


> Tax avoidance is what Amazon does, and so should everyone else.

I am interested to hear why everyone should avoid taxes, that pay for the infrastructure and wealth of the general public.

I am really not advocating insane tax rates but you would think that persons or companies that profit extensively from the wealth of certain nations are willing to do their part in maintaining said wealth.

What about usage of our streets? Thousands of Amazon delivery trucks roll over them every day. They are not paid for by tax avoidance.

Besides all that I agree that especially the governments have to do a better job to avoid tax avoiders. A conscious customer is a nice thing but is too idealistic to solve anything and will never reach critical mass.


Because giving money and power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

Politicians and bureaucrats spend other people's money spent on other people. Too right I'm only going to pay what's legally required of me.

Today, here in Australia, and I believe the story is smiliar in other wealthy nations, government spending needs more scrutiny in an effort to be more efficient, rather than more tax income.


I think the difference between Tax evasion and tax avoidance becomes moot when the corporation you're talking about spends huge amounts of money on shaping tax policy.

they are simply tax evading

Are you saying they broke the law? Because there is a distinction between evading and avoiding tax.


They only made $717 million in 2020 across all international markets. From the most recent 10-K, https://ir.aboutamazon.com/sec-filings/sec-filings-details/d...

  Category       Net sales  Operating expenses  Operating income Margin
  North America      236.3               227.6               8.7   3.7%
  International      104.4               103.7               0.7   0.7%
  AWS                 45.4                31.8              13.5  29.7%
Dollar amounts in billions.

I added profit margins to show just how little profit they're making in the retail business, particularly in the international market. AWS is the profit machine.

I couldn't find a further breakdown of different markets in their 10-K. That might be because its difficult to assign expenses to the market for a single country.


Don't worry, it'll trickle down. They're waiting to pay back to society just anytime.

Corporate income tax is paid on net profits, not on sales revenue (if it were otherwise, it would just ban low-margin businesses, which would be harmful to society). Amazon not owing corporate income tax isn't at all surprising. In most years that Amazon has existed, it didn't make a net profit at all, worldwide. It's still quite a low-margin business and I can easily imagine that the Europe business is still loss-making.

I miss the days when unprofitable companies went bankrupt.

They do, when they run out of runway. But a well-calculated reinvestment strategy, like Amazon's, can have a very low burn rate and so a very long runway.

Amazon operates for soon 3 decades on global scale, without making a profit as you say. Can't possibly imagine where that long a runway is coming from; maybe the crux here rather is some creative accounting.

It comes from successfully expanding into more and more businesses and delivering the numbers investors desire (probably including the defined pension funds of the very countries being talked about in this thread).

I like the phrasing, but perhaps if Amazon subsidiaries paid their due tax, they'd be a less attractive investment vehicle and would have had less capital to successfully expand.

They _do_ pay their due tax. It's not tax evasion to reinvest in new business areas. Corporate income tax is levied on net profit precisely to encourage economic development in a country, instead of economic extraction.

They made a profit globally for the last two years. But for many years they were very careful to expand neither so fast they went bankrupt, nor so slow they would waste investor money on taxes.

Amazon isn't unprofitable, they just reinvest everything back into developing the company. Politicians just failed to take that scenario into account when designing the tax laws.

I do however agree with you. There is a ton of companies that only survive because investors keep pumping money into them. If you can't turn a profit after ten years, then maybe your company shouldn't exist.


No they do not necassarily reinvest everything back to the company, they just funnel the money to tax heavens:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4o13isDdfY


If it didn't make net profit as GP suggests, it's unprofitable. If it did but shuffled the money via subsidiaries to present that it didn't, it's called tax evasion indeed.

Why is reinvesting profits a bad thing. Reinvesting 1Billion into the company is more beneficial to society than paying tax on that 1 billion. Creating thousands of new jobs is much better than however the government would spend the 200M they collect in taxes.

I would also like to ask, on the 44 Bn sales, how much VAT or other indirect taxes were collected by the government?

The EU has a minimum VAT rate of 15% and an average of like 20%, so a huge amount.

VAT and employee income tax are always conveniently ignored in these articles

I get it but bezos became a billionaire. Does it mean that his salary is considered a loss too, and so are all the salaries of the employees of Amazon too ?

Bezos's billions are from capital appreciation of his Amazon stocks. They are pending taxation, because the US (and pretty much all other countries) don't tax unrealised capital gains, because they are not stable - during a crash Bezos' net worth would drop by tens of billions of dollars, and the government wouldn't want to have to refund the capital gains tax it took from him - and because they are hard to measure for illiquid assets - if Amazon were still a private company, it would be difficult to value. So they wait until a definitive final sale, which provides a convenient line in the sand for both problems. There is, however, a loophole in the US, where capital gains are ignored if you hold your assets until your death - which incentivises people to never sell.

Not a loss but a cost/expense. A loss is, to put it simple, when money in - money out < 0. Without having looked it up, I would imagine that most of his wealth is tied to amazon stock.

Bezos' billionaire-ness is partly on paper (based on Amazon's valuation) and partly acquired by selling his shares in Amazon. The money comes from investors gambling on the future value of the company, not from skimming off the money that Amazon actually makes. The two things are taxed completely separately, and this article is only about taxing Amazon itself, not its investors.

He's a billionaire because the US is printing money and pumping it into the stock market, and a ton of it goes to him personally.

His salary is only $81,000 a year (and yes, it's tax deductible).


Salaries are operating expenses, so if a company makes £1,000 revenue and pays £1,000 in salaries to its staff, it makes £0 profit.

He became a billionaire not because his salary is now $1B. His net worth is

Corporation tax in the UK is misnamed. It's actually "small business tax" because you don't have to pay of you fit one of: being big, being publicly traded, being multinational. I've paid similar amounts on my little one man company as many mega corps.

“The Luxembourg unit (...) employs just 5,262 staff meaning that the income per employ amounts to €8.4m“

This puts things into perspective/scale.


Except that it's wrong: _revenue_ may be €8.4m per employee, but that's not the same thing as income. In a low-margin retail business like Amazon's, of course the revenues will be high, but almost all of that is compensated for by costs of revenue.

amazon isn't only retail. It is a logistics company. A data center company. An insurance company....

A Company "Making" Everything? Or ACME for short?

Frankly, this is bullshit. If Amazon's business was such low margin, then how have they been able to have so much growth?

The only answer, is that it isn't actually as low margin as commonly stated and instead we have a tax system with loopholes that allow businesses to make a "profit" but by "reinvesting" in themselves they don't have to pay any taxes.


Because they cross-subsidise their unprofitable new markets with their profitable established markets, so overall the company makes (historically) a net loss. It's been a great strategy for Amazon and it is what the tax system is meant to incentivise - economic development instead of extraction.

And if you put a holding company above a profitable company, and the holding company has 1 employee, then it makes billions per employee.

There's no reason to think this gives any perspective.


Terrible article, Amazon didn’t pay profit taxes, because Amazon didn’t make profits but instead, a loss. How is this an issue?

Unless the article contains any details or hint whatsoever of undue deductions artificially depressing paper profits (it doesn’t) there’s absolutely no reason to find any issue in a company paying no profit taxes when it makes a loss.

Sales get taxed with sales tax, which Amazon paid in the EU in the billions like any other company.

I’m not absolving Amazon here but this article contains nothing damning.


I recall something about movie studios setting up their business so that a successful film can technically be a flop because of all the internal billing. I recall this affecting royalties to those involved in making because it supposedly made less money.

Is the same thing going on here? Is Amazon unprofitable in Europe because it’s billing itself from another Amazon entity outside of Europe thus wiping out the profit?


Well, that's what I'm wondering but the article doesn't specify at all.

It's like an article's headline states: Amazon stopped paying thousands of employees it hired last year.

Incendiary title, is Amazon perhaps breaking the rules?

And then you click on it and read that Amazon did not renew contracts of 10% of the employees it hired last year, and is therefore not paying them anymore as they're not working for Amazon anymore.

Which is normal business procedure, just like not having to pay taxes when you take a loss. And then the second question is, were the people fired illegitimately perhaps? Or did Amazon use a ta trick? Well who knows, the article doesn't mention a shred of evidence of it. That's why it's poor journalism.

I'm not absolving Amazon of any faults, it's obviously a company with many faults and issues and I would not be surprised if there's any more. What I am saying is that this article doesn't present any evidence of any faults, yet insinuates them. I tend to like reading the Guardian so it's a disappointment to see a lack of nuance or information.


> I’m not absolving Amazon here but this article contains nothing damning.

Pointing out a company that plays by the government’s rules and minimizes tax obligations is a reliable mechanism to get people emotional and result in clicks.

It is funny to me, though, on a forum with otherwise “knowledgeable” or “discerning” people, that finance topics invite a considerable portion of forum members to disregard their skepticism and join in emotional manipulation of the article.

As opposed to learning what the causes for low tax liability are, discussing if it’s reasonable policy, and what changes to tax law need to be made, it’s just a bunch of comments screaming “tax evasion”.


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So investigate and report on the illegitimacy then. This article fails to do that.

Of course I’m serious. I explicitly state I’m not absolving Amazon of anything.

What I’m saying is that the article contains no information at all on any dirty tricks being used, yet implies acting in bad faith.

That’s just bad reporting. If it’s not legitimate then point out in the article why, the reporter failed to do that.

Not paying profit taxes on a loss is the most normal thing in the world. Paying billions in salex tax (as Amazon did) on tens of billions in revenue, is also the most normal thing in the world. Where’s the issue? The article doesn’t clarify whatsoever.


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Tax avoidance is legal, even if morally reprehensible. Evasion is illegal. There's no mention of evasion here is there?

> Terrible article, Amazon didn’t pay profit taxes, because Amazon didn’t make profits but instead, a loss. How is this an issue?

Because if Amazon makes a loss on selling 44 billion € of merchandise, either Amazon is incompetent beyond belief or they engage in somehow-legal tax dodgery at the expense of European countries whose infrastructure they mercilessly wreck.

Simple logic leads to the latter explanation being more likely.


Amazon is renowned for choosing growth investments over profit. The latter is taxable; the former isn't. Therefore it's possible that their tax reporting is entirely legitimate. I welcome investigation that shows otherwise, but in the lack of any actual evidence, I don't think it's reasonable to claim tax dodging.

> Therefore it's possible that their tax reporting is entirely legitimate

It's pretty much certain that Amazon's tax reporting is completely legal and above board. They cannot afford to not to. They are not your local tradesperson who is paid in cash and cooks the books. They are a massive, publicly traded company with all eyes on them at all times.


> Simple logic leads to the latter explanation being more likely.

Simple logic would be to conclude that a US company with >$400 billion in revenue looking to take-over an EU market is going to make long-term investments that aren't profitable in the first years and generate losses on $40 billion of revenue in this new market.

There's nothing strange about that.

The article doesn't even mention your logic, nor provides any evidence for it, not even a specific allegation by expert opinion. That's why I think it's poor reporting. (I should not have said terrible reporting).

I'd be happy to receive arguments against Amazon's faults because I'm not an investor, not a consumer, not a fanboy, and concerned about the larger issues. But I want to see the facts.


Should Amazon give away their money voluntarily?

Just by playing by the rules is not good enough?

When you do your taxes, don't you with your accountant try to pay as little as possible?


> When you do your taxes, don't you with your accountant try to pay as little as possible?

As a salary-earning individual, there's very little you can do to actually reduce your taxes by a meaningful amount, let alone down to zero like these corporations can.


Then why not start a company if the grass is sooo much greener on other side.

It's true you can claim a lot as expense and register zero profits but only when you really don't have money.

People forget, Amazon gets its money from stock market - this money is someone's pension funds and savings, they are investing because people believe Amazon will one day then profit, they don't care about these losses.

So what's the alternative? Prevent people from investing into profitable things?


I'm a freelancer, I'm sure many here are as well. I do my own taxes (or more precisely, my accountant does).

And it was more to demonstrate, does anyone pay more than they have to? Why do we expect businesses to act differently than how individuals do?


Sorry to barge in with a different angle. What do people think about the so called ‘minimum tax’? A max of (1% of gross revenue, 30% of net revenue). So even if you declare a loss you still pay 1% of revenue....

It would punish the businesses whose margins are low. It's unfair and would be detrimental to the economy.

Wouldn't that be unfair to businesses that _actually_ lose money?

If you actually lose money on a per unit basis at massive scale, then either you're doing it because you've got a long term plan that's going to make much more back and access to investment, or you should stop...

The trickier bit with revenue taxes is that businesses operating in ideally competitive markets naturally have very small margins over the long term anyway, so they (and their consumers) are penalised more than the oligopolies


There's already VAT on revenue (or added value more strictly speaking after reconciliation).

I... I just don't understand, all these global corporations assured me repeatedly that they believed BLM and equality and hated the nazis. I thought we were going to team up in our shared struggle and fight the bourgeoisie together.

This particular situation has nothing to do with tax havens. Amazon is employing tax avoidance practices such as building up losses in Luxembourg to prevent paying corporate tax. You can do this in any country.

I am not in favor of Biden’s proposal as it would only impact small companies or start-ups who can’t afford to employ teams of accountants only to report and pay profits in each country where they have sales. Look at the mess that the EU VAT reporting system is. It’s totally unattractive for small, honest businesses. Biden is basically proposing the same thing, only for corporate tax.


> Look at the mess that the EU VAT reporting system is.

Look at the mess that dividend and capital gains taxes are for an individual investor in EU. Look at the mess that social and retirement systems are for an individual employee in EU. Who cares? One simply has to deal with them or their life is turned into misery.


Corporation tax is always going to be a race to the bottom. It would be better to accept that and abolish it. Replace it by treating dividends and capital gains as normal income for tax purposes. This would be much harder to avoid.

I think it's an interesting idea and I believe Estonia is doing exactly that.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_Estonia

> However, the system of corporate earnings taxation currently in force in Estonia is a unique system, which shifts the moment of corporate taxation from the moment of earning the profits to the moment of their distribution. In other words, earning profits in itself does not bring income tax liability, which arises only when earned profit is distributed to shareholders.


That would be great, but in that case governments can’t double- or triple-tax the same money. Governments are used to tax the same income multiple times and then complain when someone does shady stuff to avoid paying. For example:

Sale -> VAT -> Corporate Tax -> Employment and social security taxes -> Dividend and capital gains tax


I think you have to follow Hanlon's razor for governement policies. It used to be easier to calculate and recover VAT and corporate tax.

Also, it is weird that tax in english is used to describe VAT as well as employment/SS "tax", this is not the same thing (or at least it shouldn't be).


Global tax on inheritance and tax on capital, no VAT, income or corporate tax, and i'd be happy.

Some corporate tax, easely negated by going in debt, is necessary though.


> despite collecting record income, the Luxembourg unit made a €1.2bn loss and therefore paid no tax.

If they made a loss they pay no taxes. I'm not supporting tax avoidance but this is totally basic stuff. Most likely amazon grows and invests their profits to open new sites like Sweden and it costs money.


They also pay billions (almost $5 billion in FY 2020) in "royalties" back to the US parent company.

So while Amazon Europe may report a loss in Europe, it certainly makes a lot of profit for Amazon Inc. (It's also helpful that foreign royalty income qualifies for a discount under US tax rules!)


Yes, but it isn't clear why they didn't make profits. Ikea locations also usually don't make a profit - because they have to pay "license fees" to the mothership registered in a tax haven.

Many people made loss last year and still have to pay. Argument is essentially "I should not pay any taxes, because I spend all my income on house renovation".

The argument is the law allows for deducting of business expenses. The law does not allow for deducting of house renovation expenses for personal taxes.



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