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Trump targets Amazon and its taxes in Twitter attack

March 29, 2018 at 8:30 PM

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President Trump slammed Amazon, believing the company to have evaded taxes, in a tweet sent March 29. But this is hardly the first time the two have clashed. EDITOR'S NOTE: Amazon owner and CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

President Trump once again lashed out at Amazon.com, the online retailing giant, on Thursday morning, saying he has long had concerns about the company’s business practices.

Trump has periodically criticized Amazon before and since becoming president. Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.

Trump’s latest critique comes after Amazon’s stock took a hit Wednesday following the publication of a report in Axios that Trump was “obsessed” with the retail giant, according to a person interviewed by the publication. Shares fell more than 4 percent on Wednesday and continued their tumble Thursday, falling more than 3.8 percent in morning trading. It’s share price recovered after a White House spokeswoman said that while Trump “has expressed his concerns with Amazon, we have no actions at this time.” By the close of trading, the share price was up 1.1 percent for the day.

Some of Trump’s claims about Amazon have not been based on complete information. Amazon, for example, does collect taxes on products it sells to customers in the 45 states with a sales tax. Items sold by third-party vendors, however, may have different arrangements. The company has also said it supports legislation that would require other online retailers to pay state and local sales taxes.

Amazon and U.S. Postal Service declined to comment on Trump’s tweet Thursday.

Trump’s use of social media to call out individual people and companies has been unprecedented for a president. His other Twitter targets have included Apple, Boeing and General Motors, as well as media outlets including The Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN.

The president has long been vocal with his disapproval of Amazon.

Trump has frequently complained about Amazon and Jeff Bezos to his friends, according to people who have spoken with the president. For example, at a dinner last month at Mar-a-Lago with Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera and the president’s two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, Trump brought up Amazon and said they should pay more in taxes, according to a person familiar with the dinner.

In December, Trump attacked the company’s arrangement with the U.S. Postal Service and called on the agency to raise the shipping rates it charges Amazon.

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” he tweeted. “Should be charging MUCH MORE!”

His tweets about the USPS reflect a debate about whether the Postal Service is charging Amazon and other retailers enough to deliver packages. Parcel delivery has become an increasingly important part of the Postal Service’s business as first-class mail has been on a long-running decline.

Amazon’s partnership with the U.S. Postal Service is reviewed annually by the Postal Regulatory Commission, an oversight agency that also sets the rates that Amazon pays for shipping. Last year, the postal service reported a loss of $2.7 billion and revenue of $69.6 billion.

Earlier in his presidency, Trump tweeted that “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt — many jobs being lost!”

Before becoming president, Trump criticized Amazon’s “monopolistic tendencies” and said the company could face “a huge antitrust problem” because “Amazon is controlling so much.” The retailer, which last year had $177.9 billion in revenue, has more than half a million employees worldwide. The company purchased Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion last year, in a deal approved by the Federal Trade Commission.

Trump has also suggested that The Post is “a lobbyist weapon against Congress to keep Politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly.”

The Post’s editors and Bezos have declared that Bezos is not involved in any journalistic decisions. The Post is owned by Bezos personally, not by Amazon.

Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

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Abha Bhattarai is the national retail reporter for The Washington Post. She has previously written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg Times.

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