This argument is mind-numbing to me and those arguing it, in my opinion, have a very narrow and uneducated view of economics in this country.
First, they should go read the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. A small fraction (some say around 1%) of the code is focused on revenue while the majority of it is focused on reducing taxes through incentives, deductions, and credits. These are important drivers for economic growth, job stimulation, and innovation. If those people are so opposed to a company legally using the current tax laws and regulations in this country then they should move to change those. I suspect a number of economists will dissuade such action.
Second, Amazon does pay taxes in the form of state, local, and payroll income taxes to the tune of $1+ Billion. So when making the argument, the opponents should be clear in saying that they are upset that, int he last two years, Amazon has not paid federal corporate income taxes largely due to the first point and the next point.
Third, Amazon smartly leverages the tax code items mention in the first point. Last year, Amazon put over $22B into R&D, it invests heavily in physical assets and property (over $60B in the last five years), and invests in their employees in a variety of ways. Local economies benefit directly from Amazon’s investments in buildings and the associated jobs created by a physical presence in the community. Amazon has continued to hire at a pace of tens of thousands of employees added globally each year for the last several years (hint: that’s more payroll taxes that they pay while providing employment to local workers).
Fourth, maybe more nuanced and less apparent to a pure economic dissection of Amazon’s taxes – through their web services business unit (AWS), Amazon has lowered the barrier to entry for hundreds, if not thousands of startups by taking on the infrastructure and basic IT services and capabilities. In a matter of minutes, a company can spin up servers, databases, and machine-learning processing that would likely take have cost their company a fair number of employees, a significant capital investment, and a lengthy period of time. This investment in the global economy – to include the U.S. economy – goes unmeasured. And while we’re pointing out this investment, companies are not the only ones to benefit. As I write this, I sit at AWS’ Public Sector Summit where Amazon highlights what they and their partners are doing for the public sector to include federal, state, and local governments, education, and non-profits. The federal government is a direct beneficiary of Amazon’s recurring reinvestments and innovations. Without it, I would shudder to think where some of our agencies would be in their IT solutions.
I’m not an Amazon apologist and I think at some point the country needs to look at a revised “monopoly” approach for companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. but in the case against Amazon over their federal taxes, I clearly think it’s a lame argument.