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Joe Biden Slams Netflix & Amazon On Taxes, Again

Jill Goldsmith
·4-min read

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden slammed a duo of tech companies Friday, tweet-shaming Netflix and Amazon for, he said, not paying their fair share of taxes.

“Let me be clear: Hardworking Americans should not be paying more in federal income taxes than Amazon or Netflix. It’s time for big corporations to finally pay their fair share,” Biden tweeted between frenetic campaign stops with this nail-biter of an election only five days away.

At a rally in Minnesota on Friday afternoon, he broadened out the thesis, one that’s key to his platform, that the wealthiest and biggest companies — some 91 of Fortune 500 companies in particular — paid “zero taxes” last year.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Netflix spokesperson cited the company’s financial statements, saying “Netflix paid US federal taxes in 2019 and is reporting a significantly higher effective tax rate so far in 2020.”

However, it can’t go unnoticed that many people in Hollywood, including those at the Ted Sarandos co-run streamer and the Jeff Bezos juggernaut, are big supporters of the Biden-Harris ticket and the Democratic Party overall — which may be a sign that Biden wants to show he’s not afraid to call out friends as well as enemies.

Biden’s tax spat with Amazon goes back to the summer of 2019, when he tweeted: “I have nothing against Amazon, but no company pulling in billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers. We need to reward work, not just wealth.”

Amazon fired back then with its own tweet: “We’ve paid $2.6B in corporate taxes since 2016. We pay every penny we owe. Congress designed tax laws to encourage companies to reinvest in the American economy. We have. $200B in investments since 2011 & 300K US jobs. Assume VP Biden’s complaint is w/ the tax code, not Amazon.”

The tax debate flared after President Donald Trump and the Republicans reworked the corporate tax code in 2016, slashing the corporate tax rate to 21%, from 35%.

A widely cited analysis by Washington, D.C. think tank the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy last year analyzed 2018 financial filings of the country’s largest publicly held companies and found that dozens of them, including Amazon and Netflix but also Starbucks, Chevron, Eli Lilly and others, were able to “zero-out” federal income taxes even if they posted profits.

An element of Biden’s tax plan was even dubbed the “Amazon Rule” because he tends to single out the Bezos-run company. It set a 15% minimum tax rate on net annual income for corporations making over $100 million a year, no loopholes allowed.

It’s true that the so-called FAANG or FAAMG stocks — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft and Alphabet’s Google — have attracted the most attention for their tax rates, according to S&P Global Intelligence. Of that group, S&P said, Facebook was the only company to report an effective tax rate at or above the statutory rate in 2019. Netflix and Microsoft, meanwhile, reported the lowest effective tax rates last year, at 9.5% and 10.2%, respectively.

The reason Netflix popped up today in particular in Biden’s remarks wasn’t clear. Netflix is a much smaller company and more contained business than others in the FAANG/FAAMG group.

Bernie Sanders may be why. He called them out in April 2019, saying, “Amazon, Netflix and dozens of major corporations, as a result of Trump’s tax bill, pay nothing in federal taxes. I think that’s a disgrace.” In November, he singled out Netflix in a tweet:

Yesterday, Netflix said it will raise the price of its standard plan by $1 a month to $14 and of its premium plan by $2 to $18.

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