President Trump has resumed his long fight with Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos. But his latest attack has left experts scratching their heads.
“The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!” Trump said on Twitter early Wednesday.
The post contains multiple erroneous or misleading claims. The Washington Post is not owned by Amazon, but rather by Bezos personally. It’s also unclear what Trump means by internet taxes.
“There is no ‘internet tax,'” says Michael Pachter, an analyst who covers Amazon and other internet companies for Wedbush. There is only a sales tax for e-commerce companies like Amazon.
If Trump is actually claiming Amazon doesn’t pay sales taxes, then he’s right — but only if you stopped following the news years ago. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amazon often came under fire in its early years for not collecting taxes, giving it a leg up on bricks-and-mortar competitors. Amazon was able to get around these taxes thanks to a Supreme Court decision that said states can only force retailers to collect taxes if they have a physical presence.
In recent years, however, Amazon has gone in the opposite direction as it opens physical stores and fulfillment centers across the country. Amazon now collects sales taxes in every state that has a sales tax.
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Amazon has actually thrown its support behind various bills to require online retailers to collect all the different sales taxes. These bills have stalled in Congress, despite bipartisan support.
“If that’s what he means by internet taxes, it was true, but it’s no longer true,” says Kim Rueben, a senior fellow with the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “Amazon, as compared to eBay, is actually trying really hard to get sales taxes collected.”
Rueben called Trump’s claim “baffling.”
Amazon declined to comment on Trump’s tweet. The Washington Post did not respond to a request for comment.
Bezos was a favorite target of Trump during the campaign. These attacks were largely fueled by Trump’s complaints about The Washington Post’s coverage of him. This week, The Washington Post published an article about Trump properties hanging up fake Time magazine covers.
“This is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos who controls Amazon,” Trump said of the newspaper in an interview last year. “Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise. He’s using the Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.”
In another stump speech that year, Trump promised Amazon would have “such problems” if he became president.
More recently, it seemed like there had been a detente of sorts. Bezos has met with Trump on multiple occasions since the election, including earlier this month with other tech executives.
The latest attack comes at a sensitive time for Amazon. It just acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. The deal will likely require regulatory approval.