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Boris Johnson ready to challenge Jeff Bezos on Amazon's low UK tax payments in New York meeting

·2 min read
Jeff Bezos - News Scans
Jeff Bezos - News Scans

Boris Johnson will challenge Amazon chief Jeff Bezos on his company’s low tax payments in the UK as they meet in New York on Monday.

The Prime Minister will see the billionaire as well as scores of world leaders as he attends the UN General Assembly this week.

One-on-one talks will also be held between Mr Johnson and the leaders of Spain, South Korea, Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine and Columbia.

The exact reason why the Bezos meeting has been scheduled remains unclear. It is not unusual for leading businessmen to attend world gatherings like the UN General Assembly. It reflects in part the influence such tech titans have in 21st century political, economic and diplomatic debates.

The relative low figures Amazon pays in tax in the UK has for years been a point of controversy in Westminster. Asked if the Prime Minister would raise Amazon’s tax record with Mr Bezos, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “You can expect the Prime Minister to raise this important issue. We have been an advocate for an international solution to the tax challenges posed by digitalisation of the economy… we will very much be looking to raising that.”

Speaking to reporters on his flight to America on Sunday night, Mr Johnson said he would “certainly” raise with Mr Bezos concerns about minimal tax payment in the UK and low salaries for workers.

The Prime Minister added: “I will also be congratulating him on his massive forestry initiative. He’s putting a huge amount into planting trees around the world.”

Mr Johnson’s government has long championed a new digital tax which would see Amazon and other tech giants pay more tax outside of America.

The changes were adopted by the nations with the biggest economies, though campaigners still want further reforms.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman would not be drawn on whether Mr Johnson would bring up concerns about Amazon’s pay to staff, an issue campaigners have tried to shine the spotlight on.

The pair could well discuss Mr Bezos’s recent trip into space, which he completed with his brother alongside him. Richard Branson, the British-born founder of Virgin Group, beat Mr Bezos into space by a week.

Both are part of a new trend of mega-rich businessmen funding private ventures into space. The move looks set to revolutionise space travel in the coming decades.

Mr Johnson himself has championed less intergalactic transport reforms, not least a tunnel or bridge between Northern Ireland and mainland UK.

However the ambition looks set to be sidelined given its price tag of many billions of pounds as the Treasury looks to balance the books over the coming three years.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is concerned about the scale of borrowing the UK currently has, not least because interest rates could rise in the coming year.