A petition to force online retailer Amazon to "pay their fair share of tax in the U.K." is gaining traction.
As reported by the Guardian, over 100,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org which calls for action over corporate practices and ways businesses avoid paying high taxes in the United Kingdom.
Originally launched by independent booksellers Frances and Keith Smith, the petition is meant to maintain pressure on the U.K. government in tackling an issue which is deemed unfair by the general public. Where individuals are now paying more tax than ever in the U.K., corporations -- including Amazon, Starbucks and Google -- are able to use loopholes to avoid paying taxes on British soil.
Although these methods are based around legal tax avoidance methods and not illegal tax evasion, many believe that allowing firms to maintain offshore branches and changing business structures to avoid taxes to be unfair in comparison to the high rates of tax the U.K. has to pay.
At the time of writing, 101,140 people seem to agree, having signed the petition.
Labelling Amazon's business practice a "tax dodge," the retailers comment:
"We face unrelenting pressure from huge online retailers undercutting prices, in particular Amazon and it's pushing businesses like ours to the brink.
But what's even worse is that Amazon, despite making sales of £2.9 BILLION in the UK last year, does not pay any UK corporation tax on the profits from those sales. In my book, that is not a level playing field and leaves independent retailers like us struggling to compete just because we do the right thing."
Officially, Amazon operates out of Luxembourg. The trading name Amazon.co.uk can be traced back to the Luxembourg European quarters for the firm, and although Amazon has defended itself by saying that it "pays all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction that it operates within," this is a prime example of how E.U. tax laws can be used to lower the tax bill.
Even though Amazon's U.K. sales in 2011 reached €9.1 billion ($11.5bn; £7.27bn), very little or no corporation tax -- usually between 23-24 percent -- has been paid into the U.K. coffers. ZDNet research has shown that Amazon U.K. Ltd. only paid 0.4 percent corporation tax in 2011, while The Guardian suggests that the firm didn't pay any corporation tax at all.
Unfair, perhaps, when you consider businesses based in the U.K. that have to cough up this high rate -- not that many U.K. businesses and individuals wouldn't avoid tax if they had the means to.
However, some companies are at least willing to talk. After mounting public criticism, Starbucks announced last year that the company would look at its tax practices in the United Kingdom.
Now the petition has reached over 100,000 signatures, the appeal will be delivered to 10 Downing Street, the home of the British PM David Cameron. Frances Smith told the publication:
"We never expected this, [but] when we've reached 100,000 we will present the petition to Number 10. We've got to keep the pressure up so the government realises this is an issue close to people's hearts. We have to keep banging on about it so the government knows it is important to people, and that there are votes in it."