The government is facing further criticism over its close ties with tech giants after it was revealed that a senior executive at Amazon has been appointed to the board of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), despite the fact the retail giant is under scrutiny for its controversial tax dealings. Doug Gurr, who currently heads Amazon's China operations, will become a non-executive director at the DWP.
In 2014 it was revealed that Amazon paid just £11.9 million to HMRC after claiming it made only £34.4m ($50.2m) in profit from its UK operations. This was despite the fact that it raked in £5.3bn in sales in the UK.
The DWP has yet to formally comment on Gurr's appointment, which seems likely to have been approved by Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. However, hot on the heels of the news that Google was allowed to pay a calculated rate of three percent on back taxes dating back ten years, the government has been accused of being too close to US tech giants.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the appointment of Gurr – who formerly worked at the Department for Transport – shows that the government is not serious about tackling tax avoidance. "I am disappointed but not surprised, and taxpayers will be further dismayed, to hear about yet another close relationship between the Tory government and a company with potential questions to answer over its tax liabilities," said McDonnell. "On the back of a fortnight of inaction from the government on tax avoidance, this will do nothing to dispel the feeling that when it comes to tax avoidance the Tories don't have a credible solution, and don't care about finding any answers."
The DWP and Amazon have yet to comment on the reports, first revealed by Sky News. Last December it emerged that Amazon had allowed Chinese traders to sell goods on its UK site without paying VAT, costing the tax payer tens of millions of pounds. Conservative peer Lord Lucas claimed Amazon and online retailer were "collaborating with hundreds of overseas retailers to defraud the taxman of millions of pounds every day." Amazon and eBay rejected the claims and Amazon insists it cannot be held liable for policing VAT compliance.