Taxing times as Amazon suckers us all for £10m

I Am feeling quite guilty. The online price of the vacuum cleaner was really very good – at least £80 less than the one that I saw at John Lewis. So I bought it.

A few days later it wasdelivered, and by that night, the dust in the rug in the lounge had been remorselessly sucked away.

But then the news broke that Amazon, the online retailer that had sold me the machine, didn’t pay corporation tax in the UK.

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Independent retailers in Scotland are outraged that Amazon was also handed £10 million by the Scottish Government. One retailer told me that he went right up to the First Minister Alex Salmond and said: “Where’s mine?”

Quite right, too.

The tax savings means the online retail giant is able to pass this saving on in discounts to customers and undercut the marketplace. Not only this, the firm is investing heavily in automated systems in an effort to reduce jobs.

Retailers are up in arms that this creates a highly- skewed playing field when shops are struggling.

Effectively, the government is investing in the further decline of our high streets.

Another retailer phoned me to say that he is expanding his operation, and aims to focus on the sort of service an online-only presence can’t give. Yet he has also invested heavily in a website.

He admires Amazon and thinks it is very clever. Perhaps too clever. He has even sold products using Amazon’s marketplace. But he notes that when Amazon sees that a markeplace retailer is doing very well with a certain line of products, it then begins selling it itself, often to the detriment of the original seller.

The retailer – who didn’t wish to be quoted in case he provokes the ire of the internet giant – has spent three and a half years and quite a lot of money getting permissions and filling out paperwork in order to open just one more shop.

And yet Amazon has its way cleared by top levels of government, with an extra added £10m to boot.

And my vacuum cleaner? That £80 I saved probably pays for the decent pay and pensions of its staff and also pays into the government coffers. That’s a hard bargain.