Elizabeth Warren takes aim at Amazon’s taxes again during speech at Seattle rally

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks at a rally in Seattle on Feb. 22. (Photo courtesy of Jake Goldstein-Street)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren called out Amazon in its own backyard at a rally in Seattle on Saturday evening.

The Democratic presidential candidate again criticized the Seattle-based tech giant for skirting federal taxes at an event that her campaign said drew more than 7,000 people.

“You know that last year, Amazon, Eli Lilly, and Halliburton reported billions of dollars in profits and paid zero in taxes,” she said, responding to an attendee during a Q&A session at end of her rally. She added that “rich people and giant corporations ‘ought to be paying their taxes, too.”

It was the only Amazon-related mention of the night at the Seattle Center Armory, just blocks from Amazon’s campus in South Lake Union. Warren, who previously spoke in Seattle this past August, also did not discuss her headline-grabbing proposal to break up and more closely regulate Amazon and other big tech companies.

The tax claim has become a rallying cry of Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, among others on the left. Amazon has been mentioned far more than any other tech company during the 2020 Democratic presidential debates, with candidates frequently citing the company’s tax bill.

(GeekWire Photo)

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 month disclosed new details about its U.S. taxes for 2019, saying its federal income tax expense for the year was more than $1 billion, in addition to more than $2 billion in other types of federal taxes. It was the first time Amazon has published this level of detail about its federal tax obligations, after enduring years of criticism for not paying its fair share.

However, the federal income tax is still a small fraction of the company’s profits, representing about 6 percent of the $14.5 billion in operating income that Amazon reported in its year-end financial report.

Warren’s event in Seattle comes after a “dominant” performance at a Democratic debate in Las Vegas last week when she heavily criticized former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Warren attacked Bloomberg again on Saturday, saying that Bloomberg is “hiding his taxes” and would be like “substituting one arrogant billionaire for another.” She also criticized President Donald Trump for putting the interests of the rich over the poor.

“What Donald Trump hopes is that if we’re spending our time fighting each other, no one will notice that he and his corrupt family and his corrupt buddies are stealing the wealth and dignity of this country,” she said.

Warren’s call for a wealth tax drew some of the loudest applause of the night. The plan would implement a 2% annual tax on fortunes worth more than $50 million, and 3% on fortunes worth more than $1 billion.

“Democrats like a 2% wealth tax and a majority of Republicans like a 2% wealth tax,” she said.

Warren congratulated Sanders for winning the Nevada caucuses. Sanders spoke in the Seattle area last week, criticizing the “billionaire class” in the home of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — the two richest people in the world.

Other candidates have been visiting Washington. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Joe Biden attended recent private fundraisers and Sen. Amy Klobuchar came to the University District in September for a public event at a coffee shop.

Washington is set to play more of a role in the primary with its contest moved up to March 10 and ballots being sent out last week, but the race could look wildly different come early next month with South Carolina voting next week and the 14 Super Tuesday states just days later.

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