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Report: Trump targeting Amazon for antitrust, tax treatment

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Report: Trump targeting Amazon for antitrust, tax treatment

President Donald Trump is thinking of ways to go after Amazon.com Inc., including altering its tax status, Axios reported March 28.

According to a March 28 Axios report, Trump is "obsessed" with the online seller, particularly because of its tax treatment and "cushy" treatment from the U.S. Postal Service, and he believes it is leading to the demise of shopping malls and brick-and-mortar sellers.

In the report, Axios, citing one source who has spoken to Trump directly as saying: "He's wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law."

Amazon collects sales taxes on the goods it sells directly, but not from third-party retailers that sell through its site. Brick-and-mortar sellers say Amazon not being required to collect all sales taxes gives it a distinct advantage.

Speaking to reporters March 28, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House has "no specific policies or actions" that it is currently pushing forward or considering taking against Amazon.

"The president has said many times before he's always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses and this is no different," Sanders said. "And he's always going to look at different ways but there aren't any specific policies on the table at this time."

Amazon did not return a request for comment on the Axios report.

The source told Axios that Trump has been told his perception of the postal service is "inaccurate," adding that it actually makes a good amount of money from Amazon's business.

Amazon shares lost 4.38% on March 28 to close at $1,431.42.

Trump's reported comments come at an interesting time, given an ongoing legal case involving e-commerce and sales tax.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hold oral arguments in April on South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., which would effectively challenge a 1992 ruling that established remote sellers are not required to collect sales taxes if they do not have a physical presence in the state.

Besides the judicial activity, there is also legislation that could reshape the tax collection landscape.

The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017, pending before the Senate Banking Committee, and the Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2017, pending before a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee, would both require out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax from consumers regardless of whether they maintain a physical presence in the buyer's state.

Though the White House denied that any action against Amazon is currently being taken, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee in February that Trump would "strongly" support collecting sales tax from online purchases.

Trump has taken a swipe at Amazon before.

In August 2017, a week before the Federal Trade Commission approved Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods Market Inc., Trump tweeted: "Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt - many jobs being lost!"

This followed a July 2017 tweet, where he asked: "Is fake news Washington Post being used as a lobbyist weapon against Congress to keep politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly?"

Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post, which has been critical of Trump throughout his campaign and presidency.