US

Bezos says Amazon backs corporate tax hike as Biden’s infrastructure needs ‘concessions from all’ 

Amazon has become the first company to endorse Joe Biden‘s corporate tax hike to pay for its $2 trillion infrastructure plan – despite the online giant being one of the savviest tax strategists in the world.

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of the company, and the world’s richest man, said in a statement on Tuesday that Biden’s plan ‘will require concessions from all sides’. He spoke on the day Forbes, for the fourth year running, crowned him the world’s richest.

Despite his company’s own highly-controversial tax schemes, Bezos said Amazon was ‘supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate,’ and called the plan ‘a bold investment in American infrastructure’.

Bezos added that it was ‘the right time to work together to make this happen’.

Amazon paid no federal income tax in 2017 or 2018.

The company paid just $162 million for 2019, and $1.835 billion for 2020 – an effective federal rate of 9.4 per cent. 

The company’s stock price rose about 76 per cent in 2020, with a valuation now of about $1.6 trillion. 

Jeff Bezos on Tuesday came out in support of Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan

Biden announced on March 31 the details of his plan, which would see huge investment in roads, airports, public transport, internet connectivity and key facilities.

He intends to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 per cent to 28 per cent to fund it.

Speaking at a union hall in Pittsburgh, the president called it a vision to create ‘the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world’ – and said it would create millions of ‘good-paying jobs’ along the way.

Bezos, who announced in February that he was stepping down as the CEO of the online retail empire he founded in 1994, has long been dogged by criticism of his own company’s aggressive tax measures.

Bezos, pictured with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, is stepping down as CEO later this year

Bezos, pictured with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, is stepping down as CEO later this year

Biden, seen on Tuesday, unveiled on March 31 his plan to improve America's infrastructure

Biden, seen on Tuesday, unveiled on March 31 his plan to improve America’s infrastructure 

Amazon always point out that they are using legal measures.

In December 2019 campaign group Fair Tax Mark singled out Amazon as the worst of the ‘Silicon Six’ – Facebook, Google, Netflix, Apple and Microsoft – for shifting revenue and profits through tax havens or low-tax countries, and for also delaying the payment of taxes they do incur.

In a statement issued at the time, Amazon said: ‘Governments write the tax laws and Amazon is doing the very thing they encourage companies to do – paying all taxes due while also investing many billions in creating jobs and infrastructure. Coupled with low margins, this investment will naturally result in a lower cash tax rate.’

In 2020, Amazon paid an effective federal income-tax rate of 9.4 per cent, despite a year of massive pandemic-driven profits, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The company’s 2020 full-year profits, reported in February, soared year-on-year to $21.3 billion – the highest level in company history.

Bezos’s own wealth, according to an Oxfam report issued in January, climbed so much during the pandemic that between March and September 2020 he could have given all 876,000 Amazon employees a $105,000 bonus and still have been as wealthy as he was before COVID-19 hit.

Nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama are currently awaiting the preliminary results of a unionization vote, which could be released at any moment by the National Labor Relations Board. The voting closed on Friday at the end of a hard-fought battle, which could have massive implications for the company’s future work practices.

Campaigners calling for the first Amazon union, in Bessemer, Alabama, are seen in February

Campaigners calling for the first Amazon union, in Bessemer, Alabama, are seen in February

Workers at the Alabama facility are hoping to become Amazon's first unionized workforce

Workers at the Alabama facility are hoping to become Amazon’s first unionized workforce

In 2019, Amazon only paid $162 million in federal taxes to the US government after reporting more than $13 billion in profits, according to the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That was essentially a tax rate of about 1.2 per cent, after the company was allowed to defer $914 million in federal income taxes.

If Amazon had paid the full 21 per cent, its $162 million tax payment would have ballooned to $2.8 billion.

Thanks to those same deferments, the news was even better for Amazon in 2018, when it actually had a $0 federal tax bill, according to the SEC filing.

Biden’s plan was endorsed by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday.

The Business Roundtable, an organization that represents CEOs of major US firms, issued a statement strongly opposing the tax increase as a way to pay for the infrastructure plan, saying it would create ‘new barriers to job creation and economic growth.’

Forbes’ annual world’s billionaires list includes a record-breaking 2,755 billionaires, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos topping it for the fourth consecutive year, as the wealthiest saw huge gains in investments even as the global economy sagged during the coronavirus.

The number of billionaires on the list of the world’s richest people grew by 660 people in 2020, Forbes said – a record increase. 

And 86 percent of the people on the list are more wealthy than they were last year, Forbes said. 

The ranks of the ultra-wealthy are expanding after a year in which the coronavirus pandemic upended world economies and threatened the livelihoods of people across the globe.

At No. 1, Amazon’s Bezos clocked in at a staggering $177B, cementing his spot as the wealthiest billionaire on the list. 

Tesla founder Elon Musk zoomed into the No. 2 spot with $151 billion. Tesla stock is up more than 560 percent over the past year, helping put a motor under Musk’s worth.

For comparison, the median net worth in the U.S. is $121,411, according to Federal Reserve data. Median means half the country is worth more and half is worth less. 

Even the ‘top one percent’ that is oftentimes touted as the country’s elite had an average household net worth of just over $11 million in 2020 – a far cry from the billionaire’s list.

This year’s billionaires are worth a combined $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion last year, Forbes said. 

And the richest cities are tilting toward China: Five of the top 10 richest cities in the world are within China, if counting Hong Kong, which comes in at No. 3. 

Beijing takes the top crown for city with the most billionaires at 100, while New York comes in at No. 2 – just shy of the top with 99. 

Tech billionaires, meanwhile, increasingly dominate the list, Forbes says: They’re worth a combined $2.5 trillion on the list, up about 80 percent from the $1.4 trillion they logged in at last year. 

And 365 of the billionaires had fortunes made in technology, Forbes said – up from 241 last year.

Jeff Bezos had a staggering $177B, cementing his spot as the wealthiest billionaire on the list. Pictured in Mumbai, India, on Jan. 16, 2020, with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez

Jeff Bezos had a staggering $177B, cementing his spot as the wealthiest billionaire on the list. Pictured in Mumbai, India, on Jan. 16, 2020, with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk jumped into second spot on the list with $155B, up from 31st last year. He's pictured with his baby X Æ A-12, which he had with musician Grimes.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk jumped into second spot on the list with $155B, up from 31st last year. He’s pictured with his baby X Æ A-12, which he had with musician Grimes.

The tech industry is the second-biggest contributor to the list, coming just under finance and investments, which has 371. 

‘The very, very rich got very, very richer,’ said Forbes’ Chief Content Officer Randall Lane, in an interview with Reuters Video News. 

Of the 660 who were added to the list this year, 493 were brand new to the list. (Some had fallen off and re-gained their status.)

The increase of 493 brand new billionaires means one was minted roughly every 17 hours, according to Forbes calculations. 

The U.S. has the most people on the list, with 724. China has 698 when including Macao and Hong Kong.

Bernard Arnault

Bill Gates

Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury goods firm LVMH, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were the next two wealthiest billionaires

Mark Zuckerberg

Warren Buffett

Investor and business tycoon Warren Buffett fell out of the top five for the first time in over two decades, as tech executives dominate the Forbes rankings and as Mark Zuckerberg knocked him out for the fifth seat

Stock prices from March 5 were used to calculate net worth, Forbes said.   

Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury goods firm LVMH; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; and Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg round out the top five of the world’s richest billionaires.

Investor and business tycoon Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, fell out of the top five for the first time in over two decades, as tech executives dominated the Forbes rankings.

Top 10 wealthiest people on the Forbes billionaire list 

1. Jeff Bezos (U.S.) – $177Billion; Amazon founder and CEO 

2. Elon Musk (U.S.) – $151Billion; Tesla’s chief executive

3. Bernard Arnault (France) – $150Billion; chief executive of luxury goods firm LVMH

4. Bill Gates (U.S.) – $124Billion; Microsoft founder

5. Mark Zuckerberg (U.S.) – $97Billion; Facebook chief executive

6. Warren Buffett (U.S.) – $96Billion; Investor and business tycoon

7. Larry Ellison (U.S.) – $93Billion; Chairman, chief technology officer and cofounder of software giant Oracle

8. Larry Page (U.S.) – $91.5Billion; Co-founder of Google, controlling shareholder

9.  Sergey Brin (U.S.)  – $89Billion; Co-founder of Google, controlling shareholder

10. Mukesh Ambani (India)- $84.5Billion; Chairman, managing director of Reliance Industries, India’s most valuable company by market value 

Other notables included Michael Bloomberg, with $59 billion, at 20; and Nike founder Phil Knight, with $49.9 billion, at 25. Oprah and her $2.7billion secured the 1174 spot.

MacKenzie Scott, the Amazon CEO’s ex-wife, was 22 on the list with $53billion. 

There were only six women in the top 50 billionaires. 

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey came in at 173 with $12.5billion. 

Former President Donald Trump notably dropped almost 300 spots as he had an estimated worth of $2.4billion, putting him at spot 1,299. 

Last year, Trump came in at 1,001 on the list.

Of the top 50 billionaires, 24 of them are from the United States. Only 10 are from China. 

But while he has fallen lower on the list, the former president is still richer than he was when the pandemic started last year.

The rate at which his wealth grew was slower than that of others on the list. 

This year’s list has 493 newcomers, includes Whitney Wolfe Herd, chief executive of dating app Bumble, which went public this year. She came in at 2,263 with $1.3billion.

Kim Kardashian is 2674th on the list of Forbes Billionaires. Since October, her net worth has increased from $780million to $1billion, according to the magazine. 

Ex-husband Kanye West is also on the list – he is ahead of Kim, in 1750th place with a net worth of $1.8billion. 

Kylie Jenner is no longer on the list, after selling a 51 percent stake of her company in 2020. 

Last April, Kanye West was named a billionaire by Forbes – largely the most trustworthy media authority on who gets the name – after pleading with them for months to look at his financials.

He said they’d snubbed him repeatedly for years, leaving him off of the annual April list, because of his race.

He showed them financial records from his enormously successful sneaker and clothes line, Yeezy, which backed up his status.

It’s unclear how their respective fortunes will be divided in their divorce, but it is more than likely the pair signed a pre-nuptial agreement when they got married in 2014.  

This year's list has 493 newcomers, including Kim Kardashian - who came in at 2674th on the list

Kanye West is also on the list - he is ahead of Kim, in 1750th place with a net worth of $1.8billion. Kylie Jenner is no longer on the list, after selling a 51 percent stake of her company in 2020

This year’s list has 493 newcomers, including Kim Kardashian – who came in at 2674th on the list. Kanye West is also on the list – and the ex-husband is ahead of Kim, in 1750th place with a net worth of $1.8billion

Kim is the third person in her family to earn billionaire status. 

Kylie Jenner, her 23-year-old sister, was the first in 2018 when, aged 21, she was named the youngest self-made billionaire in history. 

New to the list is Miriam Adelson, widow of Sheldon Adelson who died earlier this year. The Trump supporter and CEO of Sands Entertainment appears to have left his wife his entire fortune. She clocks in at $38.2 billion – good for No. 36. 

Meanwhile, U.S. stocks are up more than 10 percent so far this year, so billionaires are likely – at least so far – to be racking up gains in the coming year, too – perhaps cementing even more into the rich list.   

TRUMP’S NET WORTH DROPS BY MORE THAN $1 BILLION  

President Trump’s push to ‘make America great again’ during his four years in office resulted in a drop of more than $1 billion from his net worth, according to the latest Forbes billionaires list.

Trump rankled his political opponents and good government groups when he decided to retain control of his business empire while in office.

According to Forbes, if he had sold everything and put it all into index funds, he would be worth an additional $1.6 billion. Instead, Trump kept the business, placing it the hands of Don Jr., Eric Trump, and an executive at the Trump Organization.

As it stands, his net worth dropped from $3.5 billion when he took office in 2017 to $2.4 billion now.   

The valuations are estimates, and can’t be precisely made in part due to fluctuations in the real estate market. Trump also refused while in office to release his tax returns, although prosecutors in Manhattan have obtained eight years of them.

Trump ranks No. 1,299 on the publication’s list of billionaires, down from No. 1,001 last year. Sitting right above him and tied are Roman Trotesnko, a Russian with a logistics empire, T.Y. Tsai, a Taiwanese financier, and John Tyson, the chairman of Tyson foods.   

The valuations are estimates, and can’t be precisely made in part due to fluctuations in the real estate market. Trump also refused while in office to release his tax returns, although prosecutors in Manhattan have obtained eight years of them.

Trump ranks No. 1,299 on the publication’s list of billionaires, down from No. 1,001 last year. Sitting right above him and tied are Roman Trotesnko, a Russian with a logistics empire, T.Y. Tsai, a Taiwanese financier, and John Tyson, the chairman of Tyson foods.

As his own Forbes bio notes: ‘John Tyson is chairman of Tyson Foods, the $40 billion processor that breeds, slaughters and sells meat that ends up in grocery stores across America.’   

The coronavirus and government responses have taken a devastating toll on the travel and hospitality industry. Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel, which was able to cash in with big bookings early in Trump’s term, has been seen with its once buzzing lobby virtually empty during reporters’ visits in recent months.

Amid the turmoil, the former president has at least $590 million in loans coming due over the next four years.

He decamped to Mar-a-Lago after skipping successor Joe Biden’s inauguration, a property where the company was able to boost membership dues after Trump took office and continued to make regular visits.  

That is one area where income has gone up: it raised $23 million last year, compared to $22 million in 2015, before membership dues jumped to $250,000.

But the gains aren’t enough to make up for areas where Trump’s holdings suffered in commercial real estate and golf courses – where income is off 19 per cent from 2015.

Bloomberg quotes property advisor Ruth Colp-Haber saying Trump is facing a ‘triple whammy’ of COVID, an aging portfolio, and the aftermath of the MAGA riot.

That even has brought daily headlines of arrests of MAGA supporters who stormed the Capitol, and boycott efforts against some Republicans who joined Trump’s election overturn effort.  

The pandemic has also hit demand for commercial real estate – and the value of Trump’s stake in a the building at 1290 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan has dropped by $80 million, to $685 million, according to the estimate, which examined financial disclosures, real estate documents, and loan documents.

His building at 40 Wall Street is valued at $278 million, down from an estimated $550 million before he took office.

The Trump Organization pulled back after trying to sell its luxury hotel in Washington, D.C. in 2019. It jacked up rates on March 4th, when some believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory believed Trump would be inaugurated for a second term, according to room rates posted online. The company has a long-term lease on the building with the federal government. 


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