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Britain’s most powerful bosses finally speak out against tech giants

Blue-chip bosses launched an incredible attack on Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and Google and demanded the tech firms face higher taxes and tougher rules.

In a landmark moment, the bosses of ITV and Sainsbury’s, as well as leading figures from across British business, broke their silence on the tactics used by the titans of Silicon Valley to demand a government crackdown.

Leading the assault at a summit of chief executives organised by The Times newspaper, ITV boss Carolyn McCall claimed there was an ‘uneven playing field’ because of the tax advantages firms like Netflix had.

She said: ‘They don’t pay taxes. They are self-regulating. That gives them an innate advantage.’

ITV boss Carolyn McCall claimed there was an ‘uneven playing field’ because of the tax advantages firms like Netflix had

She also claimed the sheer amounts of data – and the market insight that provided – gathered by the biggest tech firms made them difficult to challenge. 

Facebook, the world’s biggest social network site with more than 2bn users, and internet search giant Google collect vast amounts of information on their users and then use this to target advertising, something that has eaten into revenues at traditional advertising firms.

Netflix has rattled traditional broadcasters such as ITV with its mammoth content budget. While ITV spends just over £1billion per year, Netflix splashes out nearly £5billion.

The tech companies have separately come under repeated criticism for their tax affairs, with many making billions of pounds in sales but paying just tens of millions in tax.

Amazon reported sales of £7.3billion in the UK in 2016 – but its service arm paid no tax on a profit of £25.6million thanks to a series of deductions, including share awards to bosses.

Google raked in £5.7billion from annual sales in the UK last year but reported just £200million in profit – leaving it with a tax bill of £47million. 

Facebook paid just £5.1million in tax in 2016. This was after sales of £842.4million and profits of £58.4million. 

Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler, right, called on the Government to address ‘unfair taxation’ Hedge fund boss Jan Hammer, left, claimed the likes of Google ‘crowd out’ competitors

Yesterday, Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler called on the Government to address what he called the unfair taxation of internet giants.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers have complained that online rivals pay vastly lower business rates because they do not have to pay for expensive property on the High Street.

Hedge fund boss Jan Hammer of Index Ventures claimed the likes of Google and Facebook were ‘crowding out’ competitors. 

‘What these platforms are doing to wages is what Wall Street banks did in the 1980s,’ he said. Matthew Taylor, author of the recent Taylor Review of the so-called gig economy, yesterday called for tech companies to face more public scrutiny.

The 57-year-old said the recent outcry over Facebook’s mishandling of millions of users’ personal information showed why there was an urgent need for change.

Yesterday an Amazon spokesman said: ‘We pay all taxes required in the UK and every country where we operate. 

‘Corporation tax is based on profits, not revenues, and our profits have remained low given retail is a highly-competitive, low margin business and our continued heavy investment. 

‘We’ve invested over £9.3billion in the UK since 2010 including opening a new head office in London and development centres in Cambridge and London last year, and will create 2,500 permanent jobs across the country in research and development, our head office, customer service and fulfilment centres this year to bring our total workforce to 27,500.’ Google and Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.