Boris Johnson told Jeff Bezos Amazon has to pay its fair share in taxes

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he told Amazon founder Jeff Bezos that the e-commerce behemoth must pay its fair share in taxes.

Johnson met with Bezos and his gal pal Lauren Sanchez on Monday in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly, which kicked off Tuesday.

"What I did say to him was that we in the UK feel very strongly that the internet giants need to be making their fair share of contribution in tax," Johnson told ITN on Tuesday of the meeting.

"When you sell many many billions worth of goods in the UK then you’ve got to expect to be taxed fairly in the UK," he added.


"We need a digital sales tax, a proper way of making sure that we’re fairly taxing these enormous global businesses — just as we tax high street shops."

Asked by Channel 5 how Bezos responded, Johnson said, "He’s a capitalist and he made the very important point that this is a job for governments. And tax isn’t something that he’s going to pay as an ex gratia act of kindness."

"It’s up to governments to come up with the right framework," Johnson added.

Amazon, which made Bezos — its former CEO and current executive chairman — the world’s richest man, has faced scrutiny over whether it pays enough in taxes given its booming business.


Even as Amazon’s UK revenue jumped by more than 50 percent in 2020 to nearly $28.2 billion, its UK division paid just $25 million in direct taxes, The Guardian reported earlier this month.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 20: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the UK diplomatic residence on September 20, 2021 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images / Getty Images)

When asked if Bezos accepted that Amazon isn’t paying enough taxes in the UK, Johnson said, "This is a guy who’s making … he has to operate within the commercial framework, within the laws as he finds, that’s what he does.

"We’re trying to make sure we change so as to be fair to the taxpayer, fair to other businesses in the high street and elsewhere," Johnson said Tuesday.

Policy makers around the world have increasingly embraced the notion of a global digital tax meant to focus on multinational Big Tech firms like Amazon with the goal of making sure companies pay taxes based on where they actually operate.

Group of Seven finance ministers agreed on a framework deal for the tax in June, with details expected to be finalized in time for the Group of 20 meeting next month.

On top of taxes, Johnson also broached Bezos’ recent pledge of $1 billion in conservation efforts globally.

The pledge was announced Monday through the Bezos Earth Fund, which Bezos started in 2020 to dole out his $10 billion commitment to fight climate change.


This week’s $1 billion pledge will focus on efforts in Central Africa’s Congo Basin, the tropical Andes region and the tropical Pacific Ocean, all of which are key areas for biodiversity, the announcement said.

"Amazon is coming to the rescue of the Amazon," Johnson joked at his meeting with Bezos.

Bezos replied, "In part, we are going to start with the Congo basin, we are going to start with some rain sanctuaries, in the Andes — two different areas."

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