Top Amazon UK executives quit as directors of British arm

Managing director and finance director resign from board ahead of clampdown on tax structures of big tech companies

Amazon’s two top executives in the UK have quietly quit as directors of the online retailer’s main British company in the runup to a clampdown on multinational technology corporations that use complex structures to divert profits overseas.

Christopher North, Amazon’s managing director for the UK, and Rob McWilliam, who joined from Asda as finance director two years ago, resigned from the board of on 1 May.

A spokesman for the company said: “We regularly review our business structure to ensure that we are able to best serve our customers and to pursue future growth opportunities. Christopher North remains the country manager and head of Amazon in the UK.”

McWilliam is also thought to remain a senior figure in UK operations, though his LinkedIn profile gives a new title of “vice president, consumables”.

He has been replaced as finance director on the board by accountant Phaedra Andrews. Taking North’s place on the board, meanwhile, is UK operations director John Tagawa.

In April, the company switched its registered office from Slough to Holborn in central London. An exit from Slough, Amazon’s first foothold in the UK, was announced last year.

The online retailer has been one of a number of big internet businesses accused of avoiding UK tax by routing its sales through an overseas company – in Amazon’s case, a company in Luxembourg.

Latest accounts for show sales of just £449m for 2013 and a tax charge of £4.2m. Elsewhere in its corporate filings, however, Amazon attributed $7.29bn (£4.71bn) of worldwide net sales to the UK for the same year.

The UK business employs thousands of staff, many on low wages, in its network of warehouses, but also large number in sales, procurement and marketing activities. is expected to file its 2014 accounts at Companies House shortly.

In April, the UK chancellor, George Osborne, introduced a punitive 25% tax on profits – dubbed the “Google tax” – for those companies deemed to be artificially diverting business overseas. Multinationals have several months to rearrange their affairs before the tax starts to bite.

UK shoppers’ receipts show Amazon is still choosing to route sales through Luxembourg and, to date, the company has declined to comment on its likely response to Osborne’s diverted profits tax.

A year ago, North claimed in an interview with the Guardian that Amazon’s European corporate structure was not determined by tax avoidance strategies, insisting it would be impossible to route sales to UK customers through a British company paying tax to HMRC. “We just couldn’t do that,” he said. “And a single European business is going to need a single European headquarters.”


Simon Bowers

The GuardianTramp

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