Stop public cash for tax-avoiders Amazon say MSPs

Amazons new fulfilment centre at Dunfermline, Fife. Picture: Julie Bull

Amazons new fulfilment centre at Dunfermline, Fife. Picture: Julie Bull

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MULTI-MILLION pound taxpayer-funded handouts to retail giant Amazon should be halted after the American multi-national posted income and sales figures worth billions, MSPs and unions have said.

The internet retailer has been heavily criticised for paying no corporation tax in Britain, despite receiving more than £10 million in financial assistance from the Scottish Government.

First Minister Alex Salmond previously spoken of what he described as a “historic” deal that saw Amazon set up a distribution centre in Dunfermline, alongside its customer call centre in Edinburgh.

Seattle-based Amazon said its international sales, which includes the UK, jumped by 20 per cent to $9.09 billion (£5.8bn) in the last three months of 2012. Net income at the group stood at $97m (£61.6m) during the final quarter of last year.

The revelations led to calls from MSPs and trade unions for a review of the financial assistance given to the firm.

Amazon was questioned by MPs, along with coffee chain Starbucks and internet giant Google, on how their companies managed to pay little or no corporation tax in the UK.

Tommy Campbell, a Scottish organiser of the Unite union, said called on ministers to end payments to the firm. He said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that the Scottish Government used taxpayers’ money to help increase the profits of a private company.

“Workers are constantly angry about the austerity and cuts, and the cry from the Scottish and UK governments that they have no money.

“Yet here we have an example of taxpayers’ money going to a multinational corporation when it should have been spent on funding the NHS and education.”

Meanwhile, Amazon expects revenues of $15bn to $16.6bn (£9.5bn-£10.5bn) in the first three months of 2013.

Revenues, along with guidance for the current quarter, missed Wall Street’s expectations, but investors still sent the world’s top online retailer’s stock up more than 10 per cent in after-hours trading.

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said Amazon’s healthy financial situation raised questions about whether the public purse should be subsiding the firm.

He said: “At a time of financial and budgetary constraints, the millions of pounds given to Amazon in an open-handed way by the Scottish Government has to be looked at.”

Labour MSP Richard Baker said: “People will be dismayed that a company posting huge sales figures is still not paying its fair share of tax.”

The Scottish Government has previously defended Amazon’s investment in Scotland as having a “very positive impact” and claimed the firm’s presence would create up to 2,000 jobs full and part-time jobs.

Scottish Enterprise, the government agency for promoting investment, defended the payments to Amazon through schemes such as Regional Selective Assistance.

David Smith, innovation and enterprise services director, said: “Amazon received an RSA grant in 2011 to create a major new fulfilment centre. As a direct result of this, Amazon and its private developer committed to invest more than £52m in Scotland.”

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