Slate – December 1, 2016
by Henry Grabar
It’s hard to remember holiday shopping before Amazon, which has put a Santa’s workshop’s worth of goods within 48 hours of tens of millions of Americans, and devastated tens of thousands of local businesses who once sold things in person.
The company couldn’t have done it without us. We’ve embraced the convenience and prices of e-commerce, of course. But we’ve also supported the tax breaks that have made the company so competitive with local bookstores, Best Buy, and everything in between.
Like most companies of a certain size, Amazon plays aggressively with states and localities to get tax breaks, pitting politicians from neighboring municipalities against each other in a prisoner’s dilemma. A new analysis from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for local economic development, tries to put a number on just how much Amazon has saved from taxpayer largesse in the United States: $760 million between 2005 and 2014. It’s a figure, according to ILSR’s exhaustive new report, that’s equal to 17 percent of the company’s global profits during that time. And it’s likely an underestimate.