The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has accused etail giant Amazon of being “totally evasive” about the turnover and profitability of its UK business.
The committee demanded answers from a “serious person” after director of public policy Andrew Cecil was unable to answer all of its questions.
Cecil said he “could not disclose” how much of the €9.1bn sales generated by its pan-European business came from its UK operation.
In a heated exchange in which the MPs frequently interrupted ‘witnesses’ - including Google and Starbucks - Amazon was accused of evasiveness and the Parliamentarians demanded a clear answer.
Despite the etailer operating the Amazon.co.uk domain, Cecil said the business was part of a “single European company” based in Luxembourg. Amazon employs over 15,000 people in the UK compared to 500 at its Luxembourg headquarters.
One committee member said: “This is annoying to listen to. It’s quite insulting to say you don’t know what sales volume are in a territory.”
The Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: “We need proper answers to establish the economic activities [of Amazon] so we can find out what acceptable tax.”
Cecil was unable to provide an answer when the Committee asked who owned the holding company to its Luxembourg business.
An increasingly frustrated Hodge said: “I think you’re not serious and they’ve sent you as a….I don’t know what.”
She demanded that advisors provide an answer to the question today [November 12] and that she would order “a serious person” from Amazon to appear before them at a future date.
Cecil said that accounts filed at Companies House showed Amazon UK recorded a turnover of £207m, on which it made a £1.8m corporation tax payment. He said Amazon UK was “providing services” to its Luxembourg headquarters and the UK business does not own the inventory that it sells.