If Amazon sets up a new headquarters in Chicago, the company could get over two billion dollars in tax breaks, including $1.32 billion from their workers’ income taxes. How would they achieve this fiendish feat?
With the magic of personal income tax diversion, where employers withhold state income taxes from employee paychecks. Workers still pay full income taxes, but the company holds onto all or part of the funds.
This happens when a city says to a business, “please come live here, we want your money so much you can just not pay taxes okay?” In this case, both Chicago and the state authorities of Illinois presented this offering to Amazon.
In September, Amazon announced plans for a second headquarters, which was very originally dubbed Amazon HQ2. The new headquarters is intended to supplement the existing one in Seattle. Amazon intends to spend around five billion on new construction alone, and said it plans on having 50,000 workers at HQ2.
Amazon outlined core requirements for HQ2, including access to mass transit, metropolitan population of over one million, and up to eight million square feet of office space just in case they need to expand even more. Proximity to major universities and airports with direct flights to New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. were part of the optional rider.
At least 238 other bids have been made for the headquarters. Chris Christie proposed paying Amazon up to $10,000 for every job created even though New Jersey has $60 billion in unfunded pension obligations.
Plenty of other cities want to take Amazon to prom too, and have launched promotional campaigns to stand out from the crowd. One Arizona economic development firm sent a 21-foot cactus, which was rejected due to Amazon’s corporate gift policy. Don’t worry about the cactus’ feelings though, it was donated to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
In another proposal, Kansas City, Missouri mayor Sly James purchased one thousand Amazon products, donated them to charity, then wrote five star reviews for every item, which all included shout outs to Kansas City’s positive attributes. James either has way too much time on his hands, or employs very productive interns.
This lovely display of cities offering incredible legal loopholes for Amazon is pretty heartwarming. After all, the company is definitely in need of financial help and government perks. Except that oh wait, founder Jeff Bezos is currently the only person in the world worth over $100 billion dollars.
Amazon’s soaring share price added around $43 billion to founder Jeff Bezos’ personal fortune this year, and Black Friday alone raked in $2.4 billion. There’s also all that fun stuff about subpar
workers’ conditions in Amazon’s warehouses that we all pretend to forget when there’s free two-day shipping on that thing you really, really want.
So far, Amazon has yet to accept Chicago’s tax-tastic bid, or any other offer. Based on the list of requirements, Moody’s Analytics released a data-specific analysis of the top cities.
Austin, Texas topped the list, followed by Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Rochester, New York. Other contenders include Pittsburgh, Portland, and New York City.
Amazon will announce the final site selection and plan sometime in 2018.