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Amazon, led by the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, halted expansion plans in Seattle to make clear its opposition to a proposed local tax to address the city's homelessness crisis.

Amazon, led by the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, halted expansion plans in Seattle to make clear its opposition to a proposed local tax to address the city's homelessness crisis. (Photo: David Ryder/Getty)

Last Year, Amazon Paid No Federal Income Taxes. Now, It's Trying to Kill a Local Tax That Aims to Help the Homeless

"This is what corporate power and oligarchy is all about," says Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Jessica Corbett

After Amazon stocks soared last week—making founder Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, $12 billion richer—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted that the company paid no federal income tax last year, which was confirmed by independent analysis on Thursday, and comes as Amazon is trying to kill a proposed tax that aims to end Seattle's homelessness crisis.

"You know what Amazon paid in federal income taxes last year? Zero."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

"You know what Amazon paid in federal income taxes last year?" Sanders said Monday. "Zero."

"He's right," PolitiFact declared. "We've taken a look at a series of exaggerated claims about Amazon in the past. But in this case, Sanders is on the money."

With no public tax return and no cooperation from Amazon, fact-checkers dug into the company's annual filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They found, based on a February 2018 filing, "that not only would the company not be paying anything in 2017 federal income taxes, but it would be getting a $137 million tax refund."

PolitiFact's findings come as the company has halted massive expansion plans in its hometown of Seattle, in an apparent effort to bully the City Council into rejecting a tax measure that the New York Times reports "would charge large employers in the city about $500 per employee, with the money going to help alleviate a housing crisis" that the company has been accused of fueling.

Amazon vice president Drew Herdener confirmed to the Seattle Times "that pending the outcome of the head-tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning on our Block 18 project in downtown Seattle and is evaluating options to sublease all space in our recently leased Rainier Square building." Those moves are jeopardizing plans to add 7,000 to 8,000 local jobs.

"This is what corporate power and oligarchy is all about."
—Sanders

"I'm deeply concerned about the impact this decision will have on a large range of jobs—from our building trades, to restaurant workers, to nurses, manufacturing jobs, and tech workers," Mayor Jenny Durkan, who has supported the tax measure, responded in a statement.

"At the same time, our city must urgently address our homelessness and affordability crisis and lift up those who have been left behind. I fundamentally believe we can do both by working together," Durkan added, vowing to convene meetings with community leaders "to see how we might forge common ground in dealing with our challenges while keeping jobs."

Our Revolution, the progressive political group that grew out of Sanders' 2016 presidential run, noted that "Amazon is on pace to be the first trillion dollar company—which makes it all the more despicable that it's extorting the city of Seattle over a modest tax to fund affordable housing in the city."

Sanders also weighed in on the company's recent decisions, tweeting: "This is what corporate power and oligarchy is all about."


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