Biden calls out Amazon for not paying federal income tax: ‘I’m going to put an end to that’

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Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. (GeekWire Photo)

The debate over how much Amazon pays in federal income tax is heating up yet again.

President Joe Biden called out the Seattle tech giant twice during a speech Wednesday outlining his new infrastructure spending plan. He cited a 2019 analysis highlighting 91 Fortune 500 companies that didn’t pay federal income tax in 2018 — “including Amazon,” Biden noted, while not mentioning any other companies. Biden noted that companies “use various loopholes so they pay not a single solitary penny in federal income tax.”

Later he said: “A fireman, a teacher paying 22% — Amazon and 90 other major corporations paying zero in federal taxes? I’m going to put an end to that.”

Biden cited the corporate tax proposals in his American Jobs Plan, which include setting the corporate tax rate at 28%, up from 21%, and raising the global minimum tax on U.S. multinational corporations to 21%.

The Amazon comments start at the 1:00:00 mark in the video below.

Elected officials, progressive activists, and academics frequently take aim at Amazon for reportedly paying nothing in federal income taxes. Researchers and journalists came to that conclusion by calculating the tax deferrals and credits Amazon is eligible for. CNBC reported Amazon paid $0 in federal income taxes in 2018 and received a $129 million tax rebate from the federal government, for example.

Amazon last year revealed for the first time details about its U.S. taxes. Its federal income tax expense for 2019 was more than $1 billion, in addition to more than $2 billion in other types of federal taxes.

Federal tax laws allow the company to delay payment of the bill. According to regulatory filings, Amazon was able to pay $900 million of its 2019 federal income tax expense over time due to deferrals for which the company is eligible.

In February Amazon said its 2020 tax contributions included about $1.7 billion in federal income tax expense, and $1.8 billion in other federal taxes such as payroll taxes and customs duties. It also reported more than $2.6 billion in state and local taxes.

Amazon reported revenue of $386 billion last year and operating income of $22.9 billion, boosted by a pandemic-driven surge amid as customers relied on its online shopping and cloud computing services.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren again took aim at Amazon on Wednesday over taxes. That elicited a response from Jay Carney, Amazon’s SVP of global corporate affairs — who, by the way, was previously press secretary for President Obama, and was communications director for Biden. His response is part of an aggressive stance taken recently by Amazon over high-profile issues such as the unionization effort in Alabama.

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