President Donald Trump just seemingly confirmed a report that he wants to "go after" Amazon - a claim that caused the company's stock to plunge by more than 6% on Wednesday. Amazon does not collect state sales tax from third-party sellers in parts of the U.S., in some cases those sellers are required to collect the tax.
Some retail competitors believe the third-party vendor policy gives the retail giant an unfair advantage, which may very well be true - Amazon reported a provisional tax expense of roughly $200m in USA state taxes previous year, pennies against their $177.9B annual sales.
The changes occurred last Friday, a week before President Trump sent the company's shares to red territory by attacking it on Twitter. Or is it something to do with the CEO and founder of Amazon, billionaire Jeff Bezos?
The U.S. Postal Service has been roiled by the same gale-force technology winds, as Americans abandoned mail for email and other electronic communication. Trump has also often criticised stories in The Washington Post, a newspaper owned by Bezos. Some in Congress support legislation to require all e-commerce companies collect state sales tax. Amazon does not have to collect taxes on third-party sellers using its Marketplace service. Amazon's popular subscription programme Prime drives a significant amount of sales for the company and third-party sellers being asked to list their products would mean strengthening the selection available for these paying customers.
It's well established that the online retail giant has grown at the expense of brick-and-mortar shops.
Stifel analyst Scott Devitt said the e-retailer collects sales taxes in the 45 states that have state sales taxes and the District of Columbia.
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Amazon is only set to get bigger as it moves into the grocery market.
Overall, the Twitter attacks by the president do "not seem well-informed or detrimental to Amazon", said Devitt, who has a Buy recommendation on Amazon shares with a target price of $1,800.
And its tax bill next year is likely to be even smaller: the company admits it expects to book a massive $789 million tax break this year as a result of the tax overhaul package Trump signed at the end of last year.
The other prong to Trump's criticism concerns the U.S. Postal Service.
Sources say Amazon had cut ties from the lobbying firms last Friday and in their place hired Paul Brathwaite of Federal Street Strategies LLC and Josh Holly of Holly Strategies Inc, both of whom have previously worked as outside lobbyists for Airbnb Inc and Oracle.
In July a year ago, Donald Trump tweeted that many articles about him in the Post were "fake news" and in another tweet he asked if the Washington Post was being used as a "lobbyist weapon" against Congress.
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In his tweet, Trump also took aim at the company's use of the postal service is "causing tremendous loss", but that too is misleading.
In the October-December 2017 quarter, the service handled 7% more packages than in the same period a year before, while mail declined about 5%.
Though it's unclear how much of a boon, if any, Amazon has turned out to be, the postal service is better off today than it was before.
In another financial report past year, USPS said growth in its package business was "a result of our successful efforts to compete in the ground shipping services and "last mile" e-commerce fulfillment markets, including Sunday delivery".
There has been talk in Washington of taxing online commerce more.
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