Fresh concerns have been raised about the fairness of the UK’s business rates regime after e-tail giant Amazon revealed it paid £63m in business rates last year, despite making UK revenues of more than £8bn.
The company was forced to disclose its bill by MPs this week.
The property tax was paid on fulfilment centres, research and development centres, corporate offices, Amazon Lockers, delivery stations and its seven Whole Foods Market stores.
The figure contrasts with that of high street retailers, which face higher business rates bills due to their extensive store portfolios. Debenhams and Next both paid £80m in business rates last year, however, their revenues are distinctively lower than Amazon’s, reaching £2.3bn and £4bn respectively.
John Lewis Partnership, which includes John Lewis and Waitrose, paid £174m based on revenues of £10.2b, and Marks & Spencer was hit with a £184m bill on sales of £9.6bn.
The Bookseller’s Assocation has criticised Amazon for “gaming the system”, while organisations and industry experts continue to campaign for a special tax for online retailers.
In a blog post, Amazon said: “As part of the broader debate around business rates, the story of Amazon’s contribution to the UK economy, through jobs, investments and business rate payments, hasn’t always been clear.
“Many of our facilities are very large—a million square feet or more with thousands of employees—and need to be located outside city centres, with major transportation links that enable us to meet the needs of customers and sellers. Other locations, like Whole Foods Market stores, our corporate offices, and research and development centres, are in the heart of major cities like London. In each case, the business rates for those facilities are set by local authorities.
“The facilities are part of our efforts to offer shoppers and small entrepreneurs the best possible experience, whether they live in London or Lynton. And we’re proud to have created tens of thousands of good jobs and billions of pounds of investment across the country.”