Amazon has defended the use of a swear-word on a Christmas card as “light-hearted.”
A clothing company has apologised for selling T-shirts with the slogan 'Keep Calm And Rape' - claiming it was a mistake.
Big brands Amazon, Starbucks and Google were questioned by MPs today on their entirely legal tax avoidance methods.
– A spokeswoman for tax avoidance campaign group UK Uncut
It's an absolute disgrace that Amazon is paying such tiny amounts in tax.
The Government should be clamping down on tax avoidance rather than slashing the welfare state, privatising the NHS and cutting legal aid for ordinary people.
This shows us yet again that the Government is making a political choice rather than an economic necessity.
- Amazon's main UK subsidiary paid just £3.2m in tax last year, according to official accounts, despite overall UK sales of £4.2bn.
- Amazon's taxes for last year are only marginally higher than the £2.5m the company received in government grants during the year.
- The company's tax bill was £1.9m in 2011, but these sums may not actually be paid to HMRC because of cumulative losses across the Amazon group.
- Amazon employed 4,191 people at the end of 2012 in the UK but reduced payments to the British government by routing sales via a subsidiary in Luxembourg.
- The UK company declared a turnover of £320m for 2012, up 50% on 2011.
- However, its income is largely raised from other Amazon companies in return for services such as warehousing and distribution and negotiating purchasing deals with book publishers.
Today's scheduled Google grilling comes as the chairwoman of the committee, Margaret Hodge, revealed that Amazon also faced being hauled back to explain its financial dealings.
A Guardian investigation claimed its company filings showed its main UK company paid £3.2 million in corporation tax on sales of £320 million last year while the Seattle-based group told investors its 2012 UK sales were £4.2 billion.
Mrs Hodge told the Guardian:
My committee has real concerns about the extent to which companies like Amazon are stretching the rules in order to avoid paying their fair share in tax.
By any measure of common sense Amazon appears to have a proper established presence in the UK, and that there is a discrepancy between some of the evidence in this report about its activities in the UK and what the committee was told by Amazon when they appeared before us last year.
We will now consider whether we need to recall them to explain that discrepancy.
A report last December by the committee accused both companies, along with Starbucks, of "immorally" minimising their UK tax bills.
Michael Fowler, founder of US clothing company Solid Gold Bomb has apologised for the offensive slogans on T-shirts advertised for sale on Amazon.
In a statement on the company's website, he said: "I am sorry. As the party responsible within our company for scripting and creating this automated process that created the matched slogans for this "Keep Calm" series, I apologise for the offensive response this has created across the world".
He went on: "Currently, our listings have been fully removed and we are working to delete the entire parody series.
"Rest assured, we do not condone the offence nor do we have any desire to promote it."
The offensive T-shirts available for sale on Amazon which said "Keep Calm and Rape Her" are unlikely to exist away from the internet, an experienced web commentator has told ITV News.
Blogger Pete Ashton said the company Solid Gold Bomb has more than 500,000 different products for sale on Amazon, which would suggest it is using a computer programme to generate the designs for the T-shirts. Once a design has been purchased the company then makes the T-shirt, he said.
Mr Ashton, who is not connected to the company in any way, said the use of computer algorithms to develop designs online is common among web retailers, blogging:
– Pete Ashton
Yes, Amazon shouldn’t be advertising these shirts. Yes, Solid Gold Bomb should have checked through their verb list before starting the algorithm. But as mistakes go it’s a fairly excusable one, assuming they now act on it.
After T-shirts emblazoned with offensive slogans appeared on Amazon, a spokesman for the online retail giant said: "I can confirm that those items are not available for sale".
Earlier, clothing firm Solid Gold Bomb has said the items with slogans such as "Keep Calm and Rape A Lot" had been printed in "error" due to an "automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against hundreds of thousands of dictionary words".
A clothing company that has been heavily criticised online for selling T-shirts with offensive slogans including "Keep Calm and Rape A Lot" has closed its Twitter and Facebook accounts
Solid Gold Bomb has apologised for the slogans which have been blamed on an "automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against hundreds of thousands of dictionary words".
Amazon has removed some of the items but one with the slogan 'Keep Calm and Hit Here' is still currently on sale.
A clothing company has removed T-shirts sold on Amazon including the slogan 'Keep Calm And Rape' after complaints, but at the time of writing is still advertising several more, including the item displayed above.
In a statement on their website, Solid Gold Bomb said: "Slogans had been "automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against hundreds of thousands of dictionary words".
"Any offensive items that are remaining are certainly in the deletion queue and will be removed as soon as the processing is complete", they added.