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02 April 2018, 11:21 | Melanie Burgess
US President Trump targets Amazon over taxes
Amazon'sannual report shows the company set aside $769 million United States to pay various income taxes for fiscal 2017, but by taking advantage of a variety of tax breaks tied to executive compensation and deferring tax liabilities for as long as possible, the actual amount it paid in federal taxes is a fraction of that.
The possibility that U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to "go after" Amazon caused the retail giant to lose tens of millions of dollars in market value Wednesday, even after the White House downplayed any plans to take action.
It's more likely that the president's tweet reflects his issues with Bezos over politics than serious concerns about Amazon's business model, Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR Research, told the E-Commerce Times.
Amazon could hurt the postal service - and other package companies - if it successfully shifts more of its delivery to its own delivery network, which it's been slowly building out over the past few years.
States could gain anywhere from US$8.5 billion to $13.4 billion in additional revenue if they were allowed to mandate sales tax collection from all remote sellers, including B2B and B2C companies, according to a Government Accountability Office study released last fall.
"There's a lot of things where the federal government can do real damage to any business, and that's precisely why we don't want the president to attack individual companies, certainly not for political reasons", said Stan Veuger, an expert on politics and finance at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The postal service's contract with Amazon must be approved by regulators and must generate a profit for the service. In the 2017 fiscal year, the agency reported a net loss of $2.7 billion; the previous three years, it incurred losses of almost twice that amount.
Amazon shares slumped by as much as 7 percent after the report, before paring their losses. There have been efforts in Congress to force all e-commerce companies to collect state sales tax, but Amazon already does that.
It's well established that the online retail giant has grown at the expense of brick-and-mortar shops.
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Meanwhile, Amazon may not be paying its share of local sales taxes.
Trump's attacks on Amazon reflect a broader debate about its effect on the USA economy. He accused Amazon of not paying enough taxes, using the US Postal Service as its "delivery boy" and putting thousands of retailers out of business.
Asked about Wednesday's report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration wasn't considering policy moves aimed at Amazon. Third party sellers have been crying foul over these sellers getting preferential treatment from the company but Amazon has always maintained it treats every merchant on its platform under the same policy.
Details of Amazon's payments to USPS are not publicly known.
"Though imperfect, the deal is mutually beneficial", said the The Wall Street Journal editorial board. Its revenue from shipping and packages in fiscal 2017 was $19.5 billion, up 13 percent from the previous year.
In December 2017, Trump criticised the company's relationship with the USPS, arguing on Twitter that the latter was charging too low a price. But there are other factors, such as high debt, and Amazon is not exclusively responsible. The president would love to clip CEO Jeff Bezos wings.
Trump has a long history of animosity toward Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, and the president previously has aired these complaints. Soon after Trump's tweet, the White House indicated imposing taxes on such companies. "It's really about policy".
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