Joe Biden jumped into the debate over corporate taxes with a jab at Amazon on Thursday, and Amazon jabbed back.
“I have nothing against Amazon, but no company pulling in billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers. We need to reward work, not just wealth,” the former Vice President tweeted, linking to a New York Times story from April about how Amazon got a rebate on its corporate taxes in 2018.
In the early evening, Amazon responded:
“We’ve paid $2.6B in corporate taxes since 2016. We pay every penny we owe. Congress designed tax laws to encourage companies to reinvest in the American economy. We have. $200B in investments since 2011 & 300K US jobs. Assume VP Biden’s complaint is w/ the tax code, not Amazon.”
According to the left leaning Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Amazon got a $129 million refund on its $11.2 billion in profits in 2018 because of various tax credits. Taking out state taxes, the last time the company paid federal taxes was in 2016, according to the group’s analysis of regulatory filings.
Amazon is by no means alone in its lack of federal tax liability. Corporations ranging from Delta Airlines to Duke Energy also received rebates in 2018 — a list that grew longer due to the 2017 tax overhaul, which cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. The debate over corporate taxation burst on to the public stage in 2013, when lawmakers hauled Apple up for a hearing to testify about its web of tax havens. Like Amazon, Apple argued that Congress sets the rules, and it simply finds the way to pay the least taxes within that framework.
But Amazon has also waged unusually public fights to lower the taxes it owes, such as a new tax on large employers that Seattle passed last year, only to repeal it after an aggressive opposition campaign by Amazon and other employers. The company also leveraged cities and states against each other for tax breaks in its search for a second headquarters, and avoided paying state sales taxes for years until its growing network of physical warehouses prompted it to do an about-face and collect them everywhere.
Biden has not been as outspoken in his criticism of corporations as other Democratic contenders, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but has been forced to move left on many issues to follow a shifting electorate.