Amazon publishes French taxes after accusations of underpayment

PARIS (AFP) – Amazon on Wednesday (Dec 18) published its French tax returns, showing it paid 250 million euros (S$376 million) last year, after accusations that the US e-commerce giant was not paying enough into the public coffers.

Amazon has said it plans to pass on the costs of the new tax to the businesses that use its Marketplace platform for finding customers, instead of taking the hit itself.
Amazon has said it plans to pass on the costs of the new tax to the businesses that use its Marketplace platform for finding customers, instead of taking the hit itself.PHOTO: AP

France has been at the forefront of efforts to tighten taxation of multinational digital giants and parliament infuriated the administration of US President Donald Trump in July by adopting a law taxing digital firms like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon for revenues earned inside the country.

France and other nations argue that such multinational digital giants must pay taxes on revenues accrued in a country even if their corporate or tax headquarters are elsewhere, such as Ireland or Luxembourg where company profits are taxed at comparatively low levels.

“Amazon is growing in France and as that growth increases so do the contributions to public services, to the French social model,” said Amazon France chief Frederic Duval.

In 2018, “the compulsory deductions linked to Amazon’s activities in France amounted to more than 250 million euros” the company said in a statement. Of that some 150 million were classed as “direct deductions”, like corporate tax and employer contributions.

The rest was listed as taxes collected on behalf of the state, like value added tax and social security.

Asked why Amazon had chosen to make its French tax information public now, Duval said it was because the question has been “often asked”.

“We did it in Britain recently, we are doing it in France, we want to bring clarity because this has frequently been a matter of debate,” he added.

France has introduced a new digital tax for internet giants – applied retroactively from Jan 1 – a three per cent levy on the profits from providing online sales for third-party retailers, as well as on digital advertising and the sale of private data.

Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – grouped together as GAFA in French – have criticised France’s unilateral move as discriminatory, prompting investigation by US trade officials.

In response to the French digital tax plan, the US has threatened to impose tariffs of up to 100 per cent on US$2.4 billion (S$3.25 billion) in French goods including champagne, cosmetics, yoghurt and Roquefort cheese.

Amazon has said it plans to pass on the costs of the new tax to the businesses that use its Marketplace platform for finding customers, instead of taking the hit itself.

Duval said it was not useful to lump the online giants under the GAFA tag. “We are very different,” he insisted.

France’s economy ministry did not wish to comment Wednesday on Amazon’s announcement.

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