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[flagged] Amazon will pay $0 in taxes on $11B in profit for 2018 (yahoo.com)
42 points by Elof 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

Every time I see a headline about outrage over corporations not paying taxes, my first thought is, "How much taxes did employees pay?" It's not clear to me why a non-human should be paying taxes, when all of the humans working at that company pay a ton of taxes (especially the tech side of Amazon, where employees pay taxes on their high salaries and on their RSUs).

I'm definitely not an expert in corporate finance or taxes, so I would be grateful if somebody could explain to me why I should be outraged by this.

Employees' taxes pay for government services that they use. Separately from that, Amazon as an entity [0] is dependent on government services - it ships goods using public roads and airports, its data centers rely on the public electricity grid, its buildings and shipping routes are protected by the $600 bn/year US military, etc. Amazon's shareholders - some of whom aren't US citizens and don't individually pay tax to the US government - shouldn't be able to take advantage of those resources to generate profit without helping to pay for them.

[0] Replace "Amazon as an entity" with "Amazon's shareholders" or "the resources that Amazon's shareholders own and use to generate profit" if you prefer.

Economics 101 says that governments can discourage activities through taxing them.

Most people would argue that society should rather give people more income than corporations larger profits.

Therefore, corporations should be taxed more, and income taxed less.

Corporate profits get redistributed to individuals through dividends and buybacks, so taxing corporations is just taxing the income of individuals indirectly.

Those individuals who gain income from investments ought to be wealthier, and therefore, more able to handle the higher taxation. Income deriving from wages are currently taxed at a rate that's higher than income from investments, and most people would agree that this is an injustice.

Of course, those who make and pass laws are heavily connected with those who make their income via investments, and therefore, change is unlikely to happen.

Economics is not accounting: who signs the check is not who pays for it. The concept is called "economic incidence" and its why corp taxes have consensus to be reduced in the economist community.

> * taxing corporations is just taxing the income of individuals indirectly*

Yes, but it matters which individuals you end up taxing and what they did to earn that income.

Amazon's employees, who earned their income by going to work and creating value, should bear less of the tax burden than people who are receiving money from dividends and buybacks because all they did was have enough money to invest it.

Dividends and buybacks go to people who did not do the work that generated the original revenue. The actual workers of the company should derive the benefit of their own labor, not some random shareholder.

Replace “individuals” by “shareholders,” or even “capitalists,” if you want to be more accurate. Most “individuals” in the US are wage slaves with little or no savings, much less investments. Those people benefit not a whit by Amazon passing on tax savings to shareholders.

> taxing corporations is just taxing the income of individuals indirectly

Or taxing their income twice

The article is not about whether corporate taxation in general is good or bad.

It's about Amazon paying $0 taxes on $11B in profits while other corporations continue to pay taxes.

Corporations are not people. The tax is paid by investors, workers or consumers.

Or tax people and corporations the same way. Tax on the left overs after the costs are met...

In many regards corporations are people, so you could extend your logic and ask why should I pay taxes, when almost everything I spend money on has a sales tax, I pay real estate tax, etc...

0 corporate tax rate means you have to generate the income in other ways, correct. Taxing corporations is effectively a way of taxing shareholders so if you want to remove the corporate tax rate you need to tax capital gains better. If you want to make it "fair" then treat capital gains as income. That will never happen in the US though.

> Taxing corporations is effectively a way of taxing shareholders so if you want to remove the corporate tax rate you need to tax capital gains better

I disagree with this statement. It is NOT an effective way to tax shareholders. It depends on the economic incidence of the tax on the specific company. For example, companies that can outsource (like tech) have a huge competitive leg over companies that are localized and cant do the same shennanigans. Investors can shield themselves from the cost of the corpo tax buy buying low corp tax holdings. Now workers and consumers of high-corp taxes dont have the same flexibility.

You are correct in saying it would be better to get capital gains tax. Its ridicolous fundamentally that income tax is so much higher at any level than capital tax: it should have same brackets, for the mere distorsion of masking one as the other.

Yeah, it's called double taxation: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/double_taxation.asp

If you own a C-Corp, you pay taxes on the profits of the business, plus whatever you pay yourself.

Not too surprising that businesses use every loophole to not pay taxes. Individuals have fewer loopholes but they still do exist.

From a division of labor perspective, it seems like it'd be better to tax the corporation, and not the individual employees.

I spent most of today working on my taxes, and will need to do the same tomorrow to get it all done. Not sure how many hours the average person spends, but I imagine I'm typical. Multiply that time by every single employee, and that's a huge amount of time! A specialist in the company's tax department can probably accomplish the same amount of work as many people like me.

(Yes, I know they already hire tax specialists, and I know I have to do my taxes after hours, so it's "free" from the company's perspective, but at the level of society as a whole, it seems like it'd be more efficient to tax the money just once).

I think this is a fine point, but the issue here is separate from whether you agree with the underlying idea of corporate taxes. They exist, and Amazon is exploiting the rules to circumvent the intention of the laws authors. There are many more honest companies out there that pay BOTH corporate taxes and personal income taxes as the system intends, and having the star corporations of the USA undermining the law like this makes it hard to justify everyone else playing their part.

You can come down on this either way, but part of the outrage is smaller businesses without access to the same resources most likely did pay taxes.

Indeed. Corporate tax is paid by the shareholders, as it comes out of the value of the business.

So, why do the shareholders of Amazon deserve to pay less tax than the shareholder of my small business?

Indeed the recent corporate tax cuts didn't go nearly far enough. Cutting them to zero is pretty close to a free lunch in terms of economic growth, from what I've read.

Yes, and I believe that to resolve that morally and efficiently, the government should lower taxes on all. Its not amazon thats getting the advantage, its the government that can't excercise its power over it.

One reason is inventivize certain corporate behavior and punish others.

related 300 comments 3 days ago in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19155655

Title is false - they paid over a billion in taxes, they didn't pay federal taxes though.

The U.S. needs a VAT.

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