How to lose customers and alienate people

November 16, 2012
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Is boycotting FaceBook, Amazon and all those other sites we know and love, our only option as new evidence reveals that many of these companies have, for many years been avoiding paying corporation tax in the UK?

It is a well known fact that this country spends more than it gets. Our deficit is a crumbling mess and we are up to our necks in debt that our generation will have to attempt to pay off for the rest of our lives. Yet, despite the sheer injustice of our situation, new evidence has today been released that big multinational companies such as Amazon Starbucks, Facebook and more, have been avoiding corporate tax on profits made here in the UK. This might be entirely legal but, in my opinion, it is socially unacceptable. One of the biggest culprits is Amazon who in three years made £7billion in the UK yet paid no corporation tax at all on profits from that income. Another main perpetrator is Starbucks who have also paid no tax on their UK profits for the past three years. Its not unheard of for big companies to legally avoid corporate tax; Apple are estimated to have avoided paying more that £550million worth of tax on £2billion of underlying profits in Britain by channelling businesses through Ireland who have an extremely low corporate tax rate of just 12.5%. However, in this age of austerity this is no longer something we should ignore. In fact, our government are urging shoppers to consider boycotting big chains to send a message to tax avoiders and keep money circulating in communities. This boycott begs the question; can we deal with an Amazon free christmas?

Obviously, there are many problems with boycotting such large corporations; firstly, it would take a very large amount of people for these companies to even notice a boycott was going on and secondly...I love Starbucks hot chocolate and hate paying full price for good CDs. In addition, some people are arguing that many of the items which are being sold are through small traders using Amazon as a platform and that a boycott would put them out of business. In fact, one trader commented on The Guardian newspaper coverage of this story; “As an amazon retailer i’m at a loss for words...this article could impact on christmas trade that we heavily rely on...we sell christmas jumpers that are made in the UK and we pay tax and vat.” However with this scandal prompting George Osbourne to join with the German finance minister in an international crack down on tax avoidance by multi nationals i’m beginning to think it might be worth it. I mean, yes Amazon is extremely useful when purchasing those last minute christmas gifts and yes it also serves as a great excuse for when you forget to buy someone a present (it’s still being delivered; a classic) but really with honest companies such as John Lewis paying, just in the first half of 2012, £34.6million on its £144.5million profit, I think we should all consider a change in our shopping habits. Finally, I know that over the past few years we, as a nation, have grown to see “marches and boycotts” as an expression of futility based on the blind optimism of socialism but maybe this scandal is our chance to change this. I’m not suggesting we all immediately delete our Facebook accounts (I’m not stupid; we all know its a real addiction) but maybe if we all, from now on, didn’t concentrate just on snapping up the best bargains from Amazon or satisfying our coffee cravings with Starbucks, we could in a small way stand up to the corporate greed of these companies this christmas.

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