Amazon ‘faces pressure from investors’ over tax

Amazon is reportedly facing pressure from investors over tax transparency.

24 institutional investors want to have a better understanding about how much tax the e-commerce giant pays globally, according to a report by the Financial Times.

The investors, which include Nordea, Royal London, and a number of large Europe-based and US pension funds, are trying to bring forward a shareholder resolution at Amazon’s annual meeting, the report says. It added that the resolution – which calls for a new reporting standard on tax practices – was initially outlined at the end of last year by a Catholic investment fund and a UK public retirement scheme.

The proposal, which calls for the board of directors to issue a tax transparency report to shareholders “at reasonable expense and excluding confidential information, prepared in consideration of the indicators and guidelines set forth in the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Tax Standard”, was opposed by Amazon in a letter to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier this year. It asked that the proposal be emitted from its next AGM.

The company says that changes in tax law and policy could impact ordinary business decisions on routine matters that are core to the Company’s day-to-day operations, including decisions regarding matters such as managing expenses and sources of financing, assessing legislation, legal compliance, product pricing, and locating facilities.

It said that as such, the tax report implicates “exactly the type of ordinary business issues for which resolution should remain with the Company’s management and board”, and that it would be “impractical” for shareholders to exercise direct oversight.

The newspaper claims that the investors are lobbying the SEC to enable the proposal to go through.

“A company’s tax practices are financially material,” according to a letter due to be sent to the organisation early this week and seen by the FT. "Aggressive tax practices can expose a company — and its investors — to increased scrutiny from tax authorities, adjustment risks, and increase their vulnerability to changes in tax rules as countries look to protect their tax bases from deleterious practices.”

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