Politics

Elizabeth Warren spars with Amazon over corporate taxes and ‘snotty tweets’

"I didn’t write the loopholes you exploit."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren walks through the Senate subway system at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg

Elizabeth Warren has had it with Amazon’s “snotty tweets.”

The Massachusetts senator and big tech critic got into a snippy back and forth with Amazon’s increasingly combative public relations Twitter account Thursday night, after she called out the e-commerce giant for “manipulating the tax code to avoid paying their fair share.” And while it was hardly the first time that Warren has singled out Amazon, her tweet elicited a sharp response from the Amazon News account.

“You make the tax laws, @SenWarren; we just follow them,” the company tweeted. “If you don’t like the laws you’ve created, by all means, change them.”

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Warren would like to do exactly that. In the video she posted on Twitter, the senator says she’s planning to introduce a bill to tax the “book profits” of large companies, similar to what President Joe Biden has proposed. While companies like Amazon say they’re following the law, many — and perhaps most notably Amazon — have been able to significantly reduce their corporate tax liability through a variety of tactics, such as carrying forward past operating losses to offset current profits, international profit shifting, and utilizing tax credits for research and development.

Warren says her book profits tax bill would close some of those “loopholes.” As she first outlined during her presidential campaign, the proposal would apply a 7 percent tax on “every dollar of profit above $100 million” that companies report to their investors, as opposed to what is ultimately reported to the government.

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Amazon said Thursday night that the company has paid $1.7 billion in federal taxes in 2020 — which is still just 7 percent of the company’s $24.2 billion pre-tax income last year, far below the 21 percent federal corporate income tax rate (company filings suggest it paid zero federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018). The company also argued that it had generated $18 billion in local sales taxes and used the country’s investment tax credits to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs with a minimum starting wage of $15 an hour.

“While you’re working on changing the tax code, can we please raise the federal minimum wage to $15?” the company sniped.

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In response, Warren argued that Amazon’s “armies of lawyers and lobbyists” were the reason for the current tax code, not her.

“I didn’t write the loopholes you exploit,” the Cambridge Democrat said, adding that she was fighting make Amazon pay its “fair share,” among her other ongoing battles with the company, which she has proposed to break up.

The exchange Thursday came as Amazon, which touts its “industry-leading” pay and benefits, fights a union drive by workers in Alabama. It also comes less than a day after the Amazon News account got into a Twitter argument with a Wisconsin congressman over a report that one of the company’s delivery drivers regularly urinated into a plastic bottle due to grueling 14-hour shifts.

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“You bet I’ll fight to make you pay your fair share,” Warren wrote. “And fight your union-busting. And fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”

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