While the tech giant Amazon has publicly endorsed proposals to raise the corporate tax rate in the United States, the company has been secretly lobbying to keep its own tax rates low, Politico reports.
Last year, during the 2020 presidential election, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos openly supported then-candidate Joe Biden’s proposals to raise taxes on American corporations. Those proposals have re-emerged in recent weeks as a possible means of funding a possible infrastructure bill, and Biden has been advocating for other countries around the world to adopt higher corporate tax rates as well.
But recently, Amazon has been stepping up its lobbying efforts to try to convince Congress and the White House to allow the company to keep using certain tax breaks in order to keep its own rates low. The retail giant hired a tax lobbyist named Joshua Odintz, who formerly worked as a Democratic aide on Capitol Hill and then as an official in the Obama Administration. In addition to Amazon’s own efforts, similar lobbying has been undertaken by a group known as the “R&D Coalition,” which consists of several companies and organizations including Amazon, Intel, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Odintz and the R&D Coalition have been lobbying in favor of preserving the “research and development tax deduction.” First implemented in 1981, the R&D deduction includes a tax credit that incentivizes companies to invest more in R&D in exchange for tax breaks on all expenditures related to these areas of spending.
Although the R&D deduction is not the only method through which Amazon and other companies can lower their own taxes, Amazon confirmed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the bulk of its tax reductions “were primarily related to the U.S. federal research and development credit.”
While the exact amount of money saved by this credit alone remains uncertain, Matthew Gardner, senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said that it is “very likely they’re getting hundreds of millions of dollars a year in R&D tax credits.”
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in 2017 and signed into law by President Donald Trump, actually took steps to reduce the impact of the R&D tax credit. The law required companies to deduct their total amounts of R&D funding every year over the course of five years, which reduced the overall value of the tax break.
When asked about the possible R&D loophole, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, speaking on behalf of the Biden Administration, said that “promoting innovation is a critical priority…continuing to allow firms to expense R&D rather than shifting to amortizing could be one very effective way to bring that about.”