VIDEO. Jeff Bezos, Amazon boss and tax optimization champion

“In 2019, Amazon’s total contribution to French taxation was 420 million euros”, hammered its general manager, Frédéric Duval, on the airwaves and on TV sets in November 2020. The figure is surprising … Since its beginnings, the number one (in France and in the world) of online sales has been a hit. is made a reputation as a champion of tax optimization.

“Total tax contribution”

For years, recalls “Complément d’Inquête” in a document to be seen on April 22, 2021, a clever financial arrangement allowed him to withdraw from the French, English, German, Spanish, Italian tax authorities … three quarters of the profits of its sales in Europe. But since 2015, following an investigation by the European Commission, Jeff Bezos’ firm has found it useful to put some order in its affairs. It is therefore to let it be known that the boss of Amazon France was engaged in a media tour.

Let’s come back to those 420 million euros… that sounds like a lot. Except that Frédéric Duval evokes a “total tax contribution” – either employer contributions, local taxes, various taxes, plus the famous tax on profits … all cumulative. It is therefore not through him that we will know the amount of tax paid by the e-commerce giant on its profits in France … Nor by consulting its accounts: they are not all published.

0.1% of turnover paid in 2018

But by getting their hands on a confidential report from Amazon management, journalists uncovered some secrets that relate to online commerce. Notably, in 2018, when it earned more than 3 billion euros, the French branch of Amazon paid only 2.5 million euros in profits. Barely 0.1% of its turnover …

For tax optimization specialist Eric Vernier, this is not surprising – nor illegal. This is because, he notes, almost all of the commercial margin (the gain represented by the difference between the purchase price and the selling price of goods) has been used to pay for nebulous “external services”. What are these “external services” which absorb almost 950 million out of 1 billion euros? “It is in particular patents, licenses, all these elements which are valued by the parent companies.”

Nebulous “external services”

In France, as in other European countries, to use the Amazon brand, the branch pays a royalty to its parent company, located in Luxembourg. The trick is that the amount of these user fees is particularly high. It covers almost all of the profits, which thus escape tax in France …

From “Jeff Bezos, Is the World His?” a document to see in “Further investigation” on April 22, 2021.

> Replays of France Télévisions news magazines are available on the Franceinfo website and its mobile application (iOS & Android), “Magazines” section.

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