Why Amazon's tax bill is puny compared to rivals

By Taxes FOXBusiness

Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo (Copyright Reuters 2017)

Amazon (AMZN) may be one of the largest corporate giants in the U.S., but its tax bill pales in comparison to some of the other top Fortune 500 companies, a new analysis shows.

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Despite having a market cap of more than $470 billion and ranking 12 on the Fortune 500 list, the e-commerce company has only paid $1.4 billion in corporate income tax since 2008, according to Clinical Professor at the NYU Stern School of Business Scott Galloway – and as reported by Bloomberg. Comparatively, over the same time period, Walmart (WMT) paid $64 billion.

The reason Amazon has such a low corporate income tax bill is because its registered profit is small when compared with the companies that are paying higher rates: Since 2008, the e-commerce company’s pretax income has totaled just $11 billion, compared to Walmart’s $209 billion, according to Bloomberg’s analysis.

Some of the other big companies that have a small tax bill despite enjoying a large global business imprint are Ford Motor Company (F), Microsoft (MSFT), and Facebook (FB), Bloomberg notes. The underlying trends behind these companies’ low tax obligations are the fact that they have a lot of earnings overseas and many assets than can be easily moved to areas that have the lowest tax rates. In the latter case, if the money isn’t repatriated, the company will avoid paying the U.S. tax rate, which is among the highest in the industrialized world.

Still, the exact amount that companies pay to the IRS in corporate tax dues is not publicly disclosed information, Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at Cato and editor of DownsizingGovernment.org, told FOX Business. Edwards pointed out that what companies actually pay, and what is written on financial statements, can vary greatly, so it may be frivolous to pass judgement on each company’s bill.

“Individuals, not corporations, ultimately pay the corporate tax as shareholders, workers, or consumers,” he said. “Corporations are just the government’s collection vehicle.”

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However, one person who has not shied away from criticizing Amazon’s, and its CEO Jeff Bezos’, tax practices is President Donald Trump. Trump called Amazon a “no-tax monopoly” in July and accused Bezos of owning The Washington Post in order to keep taxes down at the e-commerce company in both December of 2015 and again in July.

During an interview with Fox News in May, President Trump said Bezos was “getting away with murder tax-wise,” claiming the Amazon CEO was using The Washington Post to accumulate capital among politicians so that the company can dodge taxes.

During the same interview, Trump suggested Amazon had “a huge antitrust problem.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Amazon had violated no antitrust laws during an interview with FOX Business in August.

In August, the president tweeted that Amazon was hurting retailers and jobseekers.

While the president is putting pressure on Amazon as it continues to grow, traditional retailers are struggling to survive in a landscape of shifting consumer tastes. Last week women’s shoe retailer Aerosoles filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as it seeks to reorganize its business model to place a higher emphasis on its online footprint. Early Tuesday, Toys ‘R’ Us filed for bankruptcy, citing the same goal for its web sales presence. Retailers are on pace to set a record for bankruptcies in 2017.

On the flip side, Amazon is making larger strides into the consumer market. The company announced a new Prime feature that has the struggling retail industry trembling as it seeks to bring the dressing room straight into customers’ living rooms. The new service, Amazon Prime Wardrobe, would allow members to try on clothes for free and send back what they don’t like at no extra charge. It also furthered its expansion into the grocery aisle with the acquisition of organic grocer Whole Foods earlier this year.

Amazon’s stock is up nearly 30% so far in 2017.

Amazon did not return FOX Business’ request for comment at the time of publication.

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