‘I don’t give a damn how big they are’: Joe Biden says Amazon must start paying more tax

Comments reflect influence of Bernie Sanders on ex-VP’s presidential campaign 

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
Sunday 24 May 2020 01:40
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Joe Biden has said Amazon should pay more in taxes, the latest populist message suggesting the influence that Bernie Sanders has over his campaign.

During the Democratic primary Mr Biden made regular visits to Seattle, home of Amazon, and held fundraisers in the homes of senior executives of the company. He also sought donations from other members of the technology community.

While the vice president has previously gone on the record to say it was wrong that Amazon has paid no federal income taxes for the past two years – he said so in a tweet last year for instance – his approach towards the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos, has been far less aggressive than that of Mr Sanders.

During the campaign Mr Sanders repeatedly denounced the fact Amazon claimed it did not need to pay federal taxes because of overseas expenses and tax credits.

Last year he tweeted: “If you paid the $119 annual fee to become an Amazon Prime member, you paid more to Amazon than it paid in taxes.”

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Amazon, which earlier this year announced the costs of responding to the pandemic would be hugely more than expected, has denied avoiding taxes. “Amazon pays all the taxes we are required to pay in the US and every country where we operate, including paying $2.6bn (£2.02bn) in corporate tax and reporting $3.4bn [£2,8bn] in tax expense over the last three years,” a spokesperson said in a statement to The Independent last year.

“Corporate tax is based on profits, not revenues, and our profits remain modest given retail is a highly competitive, low-margin business and our continued heavy investment.”

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In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Mr Biden said Amazon ought to pay more taxes.

“I don’t think any company, I don’t give a damn how big they are, the Lord Almighty, should absolutely be in a position where they pay no tax and make billions and billions and billions of dollars,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said.

For the 2017 and 2018 tax years, Amazon’s own financial filings showed that it expected to receive money back from the federal government, not that it owed money in income tax, CNN reported. For the 2019 tax year, Amazon said it owed more than $1bn in federal income tax, a figure experts said amounted to little more than 1 per cent of its profits.

Mr Biden, who is desperate to gain the support of Mr Sanders’s progressive fans, said companies generally should “start paying their employees a decent wage and protect their employees”.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Mr Biden’s comments

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