This is not new news but The Guardian treats it as though it is.
I published my first e-book with Amazon back in February. Amazon expects every author and publisher to take the VAT hit if they want their books to sell at attractive prices to readers. A book can be £4.12 or £3.99. It is the latter price that appeals more but selling at that price means the author is effectively not only paying 30% to Amazon but VAT as well, although it isn’t 20%, it’s closer to 3%.
Authors and publishers could be said to voluntarily take the hit but it’s only voluntary in so far as we want our books to sell so we can avoid going hungry. Amazon, meanwhile, has no income worries and can probably afford to pay off the UK’s national deficit and still buy in a round of lattes from Starbucks.
Amazon’s not forthcoming about how tax is calculated and most authors I know have to mess around with their pricing a number of times in the backend admin tool before they find their books appear on the store at the prices they want readers to see. We’re not provided with any precise VAT figure that is applied nor are we aided with a calculating mechanism. There are no instructions or explanations whatsoever. It’s all deliberately vague.
Frankly Amazon, Starbucks et al need to be told, no matter the ramifications, if they want to continue earning billions in the UK, pay your taxes or your CEOs will go to prison and the Inland Revenue will forcibly raid your accounts. It won’t happen because all three mainstream parties have no spine, no vision, no daring.