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Amazon's Jeff Bezos welcomes higher taxes

April 7, 2021

In a surprising turn, Amazon's founder and CEO has endorsed President Joe Biden's tax hike meant to pay for overhauling US infrastructure.

Jeff Bezos walks onstage for the launch of the new Amazon Fire Phone in Seattle in 2014
Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and CEO, has come out in support of increased taxes. Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. S. Warren

One of the world's richest people, Jeff  Bezos came out in favor of President Joe Biden's idea to rebuild the United States' crumbling infrastructure.

On Tuesday, he said that his company was "supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate" that would help pay for it.

"We support the Biden Administration’s focus on making bold investments in American infrastructure," the billionaire said.

Bezos' statement, posted on the company's website, comes only days after Biden criticized the online retail giant, saying it paid "zero in federal taxes."  

Biden pledged to "put an end to that" and hike US corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% to help fund the $2.3 trillion (€1.94 trillion) infrastructure initiative.

Why did Biden single out Amazon?

Amazon workers demonstrate in Berlin for higher pay
Calls are increasing worldwide to ensure that Amazon pays more in taxes. Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/E. Contini

Last month, Biden cited a 2019 study showing 91 Fortune 500 companies, "the biggest companies in the world, including Amazon...pay not a single, solitary penny of federal income tax," adding, "That is just wrong."

However, Biden's claims did not appear to be fully up-to-date. Since 2019, the Seattle-based company became even more profitable and has therefore paid some taxes. Last year, Amazon reportedly handed over $1.7 billion in federal taxes on a US income of $20.2 billion. That works out to an effective tax rate of about 8%.

What did Bezos say about the infrastructure overhaul?

Bezos was careful not to endorse a specific concept.

"We look forward to Congress and the Administration coming together to find the right, balanced solution that maintains or enhances US competitiveness,'' the 57-year-old said.

"We recognize this investment will require concessions from all sides — both on the specifics of what's included as well as how it gets paid for," Bezos added.

The world's largest online retailer and a leading delivery company, Amazon would also benefit from the investments made in roads, bridges, airports and broadband.

How have other companies reacted?

Business groups have joined in calling for more public works investment by the federal government.

Logos | Google | Amazon | Facebook | Apple
US tech giants have been accused of tax avoidance. Image: Getty Images/AFP/L. Bonaventure

However, they have generally balked at Biden's plan to raise the corporate income tax, a proposal the US Chamber of Commerce describes as "dangerously misguided."

Biden also wants to set a minimum tax on overseas corporate income. 

This will make it harder for companies, including technology giants like Amazon and Google, to shift earnings offshore and avoid paying taxes in the US.

mb/dj (AP, AFP, dpa)