An ex-French minister told the head of Amazon France that he was “taking the piss” after the executive told a parliamentary committee that the company paid the French state €420 million in 2019 and had sales of €5.7 billion.
“If a French company dared to do that, we would laugh at it,” said Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s former minister for digital affairs and now a lawmaker with President Emmanuel Macron’s party.
The comments late on Wednesday by Mahjoubi, a member of Macron’s inner circle, underline the frustration of a growing number of officials when dealing with the US e-commerce giant.
Insults France has been at the forefront of an international push to force U.S. digital giants such as Amazon to pay higher taxes and submit to more regulation.
“I don’t respond to insults like this,” Frederic Duval, the head of Amazon France snapped back at Mahjoubi.
“Amazon doesn’t make a lot of profit,” Duval said. “That’s why it pays little tax on its profits but a lot of tax on its operations.”
Mahjoubi had asked him to provide a detailed break-down of Amazon’s sales in France and clear indication of the corporate taxes the firm pays in the country – a figure Amazon declines to make public.
Amazon’s stellar success The €420 million euros includes not only tax but also a wide range of levies including France’s weighty social security payments for workers that fund the welfare system.
Mahjoubi broke the polite atmosphere that usually reigns in such meetings to accuse the Amazon boss of messing them around.
Amazon’s stellar success, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic, has provoked anger and resentment at the government for failing to bring them into line on corporate taxes.
The French government asked Amazon to postpone its Black Friday discounts by a week to put small shops on a more equal footing with the e-commerce giant as France exited its second lockdown – which it agreed to do, along with other major retailers. – Reuters