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Amazon boss argues that the company is 'really good for the UK'

The boss of Amazon in the UK has insisted the rapid growth of the online retailer is good for Britain despite criticism about the amount of tax it pays and the turmoil facing high streets across the country.

Christopher North, the managing director of, said Amazon has invested more than £1bn into the UK, as well as paying delivery firms £1bn over the past five years and handing over £500m in VAT to the Treasury in the past year.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr North also defended Amazon’s tax policy as “very clear and very consistent” but accepted that the company “perhaps haven’t done enough to tell our story”.

Mr North said: “What I am convinced of is that what we are doing is really good for the UK.”

Amazon revealed on Thursday night that global third-quarter revenues rose 24pc to $17.09bn, while losses narrowed to $41m from $274m in the same period last year.

Amazon arrived in the UK in 1998. It now has revenues of more than £4bn and employs 6,000 permanent staff.

“There is our direct investment in job creation in the UK, which amounts to billions of pounds, many thousands of jobs and will continue to grow,” Mr North said.

“But there are also the indirect benefits – whether we are purchasing £1bn of delivery services from suppliers like Royal Mail, whether it is indirect job creation because of the drivers who are being hired at our regional delivery partners.

“I don’t think we have gone out there and bragged about those things, we are certainly very proud of them.”

Mr North added: “We are bringing great benefits to customers – I think we are bringing them vast range, we are bringing them lower prices, we are bringing them convenience, we are bringing them innovative new digital products.

“I think we are building the kinds of tools and platforms that are making, in an indirect way but in a very real way, a very significant contribution to the UK economy. They are letting individuals, and small businesses, and even big businesses, establish a business, grow a business, become exporters for the first time. These are things we hear are very important priorities.”

Amazon was criticised by the Public Accounts Committee of MPs for being registered to pay corporation tax on UK sales in Luxembourg.

However, Mr North said this was because Amazon had chosen to operate a “single European business” and you “can’t look at it [the UK business] in isolation”.

Amazon has 24 warehouses across Europe, including eight in the UK, that can all deliver products to British consumers.

“I don’t think it would be possible to offer 100m distinct products to our customers in the UK if we had only set up a business in the UK. I think it is only the structure of our business as a single European business that makes that possible,” Mr North said.

“What we have said on tax has been very clear and very consistent, which is that we have followed all of the laws that apply to us in every jurisdiction on tax and we will continue to do so.”

Mr North said that Amazon collects VAT on all products shipped to a UK address, which amounted to £500m last year. The Amazon boss said that was a “pretty big number”.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr North said he wanted to do a “better job” of “telling our story”.

Source : Graham Ruddick - The Telegraph

25 October 2013
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