‘I think Amazon should start paying their taxes,’ Joe Biden says

Apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told CNBC on Friday that Amazon “should start paying their taxes.”

“I don’t think any company, I don’t give a damn how big they are, the Lord almighty, should absolutely be in a position where they pay no tax and make billions and billions and billions of dollars, No. 1,” Biden said during “Squawk Box” interview.

An Amazon spokesperson referred CNBC to a January blog post that lays out the company’s federal income tax expenses for 2019, as well as its contributions to the economy.

The former vice president was asked whether the company should be broken up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who challenged Biden for the nomination and is now a potential running mate, has called for breaking up Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet, saying they are too powerful and harm consumers.  

Biden, who appeared for the interview via livestream from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, didn’t go as far as Warren, saying he would leave antitrust judgments to his administration. But he said Amazon’s behavior was inappropriate. 

“The whole notion of this is: Are you playing the game fairly?” Biden said. “What’s the capitalist system all about? The capitalist system is about everyone dealing fairly and dealing straight up with the American people and with their employees.”

The online retailer has fared far better than most U.S. companies as stay-at-home measures related to the coronavirus pandemic have shifted consumer demand further onto the internet. But the company continues to face political pressure from politicians on the left and right. 

President Donald Trump, whose frequent attacks on Amazon are often linked with his feud with CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, threatened last month to block federal aid to the United States Postal Service unless it raised the prices that it charged the company. 

In a tweet last year, Trump called Bezos “Jeff Bozo” and expressed hope that “the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”

Amazon’s tax record in particular has been targeted by lawmakers. The company paid $ 162 million in federal income taxes in 2019 after owing $ 0 in the two previous years. The company, which benefits from a variety of tax credits and deductions, reported total revenue last year of $ 280.5 billion.

Last June, Biden and Amazon engaged in a Twitter spat over the issue, with Biden saying “no company pulling in billions of dollars in profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers.”

Amazon fired back, saying it had paid $ 2.6 billion in corporate taxes since 2016 and touting its investments in U.S. job creation.

“We pay every penny we owe,” the company said at the time.  “Assume VP Biden’s complaint is w/ the tax code, not Amazon,” the company added. 

In Friday’s interview,  Biden also said an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic looks “a long way away.” 

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