On November 23 2019 @EatTheRichPod shared the following tweet, referencing volumes of laudatory headlines about Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos donating $98 million to homeless people — asserting that Bezos’ generosity was equivalent to $45 for the average wage-earner:
If you made $50,000 per year this is the equivalent of giving away $45. pic.twitter.com/yBAeL7ExRV
— Eat The Rich (@EatTheRichPod) November 23, 2019
Atop a Forbes headline (“The Richest Person In The World Just Gave $98.5 Million To Help The Homeless”) and photograph of Bezos, the tweet read:
If you made $50,000 per year this is the equivalent of giving away $45.
Generally, the tweet was addressing a topic we have examined numerous times on TruthOrFiction.com. An earlier tweet (but not about Bezos) claimed that a million seconds ago was two weeks prior, while a billion seconds ago was in the late 1980s as of 2019 (which is true.)
Bezos himself has been the subject of similar comparisons, including a rumor that in order to acquire a single billion dollars (not multiple , much less more than 100 billion), at a high rate of $5,000 a day, a person working since 1492 still wouldn’t get to that one billion. In another, social media users contrasted the ever-high profits of Amazon against the parent companies decision to allow taxpayers to foot the bill for part-time Whole Foods workers’ health insurance.
On November 22 2019, Forbes published a glowing piece about Bezos’ donations:
Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, announced on Thursday he has donated $98.5 million to 32 organizations in 23 states that are helping homeless families. The gifts to each organization received ranged from $1.25 million to $5 million.
The Amazon founder and CEO gave the money through his Bezos Day One Fund, which he announced in September 2018. At launch, Bezos pledged $2 billion to the fund, which has two areas of focus: funding the work of organizations who help homeless families, and creating Montessori-inspired preschools across the country.
A screenshot of @EatTheRichPod’s tweet was shared to Facebook the day after it was published, and a similar sentiment from Twitter was shared by a page called “Fuck Jeff Bezos.” That post was shared more than 29,000 times in the next few days:
In the screenshot above, two tweets by @QasimRashid appeared. They read:
 If Bezos kept his $98.5M in charity to the homeless & instead paid Amazon’s owed $8.4B in taxes—it’d be enough for an apt for all 500K homeless ppl in America for 18mo [emoji]
TL:DR Amazon’s corp taxes alone could end homelessness in America—Bezos would still be world’s richest person
 People defending Amazon skipping out on $8.4B in taxes still don’t get how much even $1B is—so a reminder:
• Median American income is $31K/yr
• For a median American to amass $1B—she’d need to work for 33,000 years $ spend $0—ever
• Stop defending billionaires—Start taxing them
A whopping .09% of his net worth. Thanks so much Jeff.
— punkassbamboo (@punkassbamboo) November 22, 2019
That’s 0.09% of your net worth.
Just pay your taxes. https://t.co/KEke1NUE8E
— Jeremy Corbyn 🚨 Register To Vote by 11.59pm 🚨 (@jeremycorbyn) November 24, 2019
Corbyn’s tweet was shared to Reddit’s r/worldnews, hitting the top of r/all:
Criticism of the relative worth of Bezos’ contribution contained many threads — a purported tax deficit involving Bezos’ Amazon.com, Bezos’ purported earnings, Bezos’ net worth, and other related factors. In April 2019 CNN reported that Bezos was compensated modestly (“Jeff Bezos made $81,840 last year. He’s still the richest person in the world”, but that calculation only included his salary as CEO.
In January 2019, Business Insider calculated estimated earnings for Bezos based on his previous years’ net worths.
We calculated the Amazon CEO’s annual earnings by finding the difference between his 2017 and 2018 net worths (calculated in October of each year) as provided by the Forbes 400 list. But what does that translate to per month, or even per second? From his annual earnings, which we determined to be $78.5 billion, we then calculated how much Bezos makes in smaller time frames … At the annual earnings rate Business Insider calculated — again, an estimation based on the change in his Forbes net worth year-over-year — Bezos has earned $6.54 billion a month, more than $1.5 billion a week, and more than $215 million a day in the last 12 months.
Those calculations provided us one estimated annual earnings figure for Bezos — $78.5 billion, or $78,500,000,000. Bezos’ donation was $98.5 million, or $98,500,000. In our calculations, $98.5 million was 0.0125 percent of $78.5 billion.
As others suggested, Bezos’ net worth was perhaps a more steady figure against which to measure the proportion of money donated. Forbes maintains a real-time net worth tracker, estimating Bezos’ net worth to be $110 billion or $110,400,000,000 as of November 26 2019. $98.5 million was 0.0125 percent of $110.4 billion.
In tweets, folks claimed Bezos’ donation of $98.5 million was equivalent to .09 percent of his net worth. By our calculations, they rounded up from 0.089 percent. So those claims were true.
Incidentally, $45 was .09 percent of $50,000, without knowing the net worth of the putative middle-class wage earner in the comparison scenario. To be wholly accurate, that $50,000 wage earner’s equivalent donation would actually be $45.50.
As for the claim Amazon.com “owed” or ought to be paying $8.4 billion in taxes to the federal government, we were unable to substantiate that widely-cited figure. It is true that Amazon did not pay taxes two years in a row. In early 2019, CNBC reported:
Amazon is one of the world’s most valuable companies, valued at nearly $800 billion, and the e-commerce giant pulled in $232.9 billion in global revenue in 2018.
And yet, Amazon’s federal tax bill [in 2019]: $0. For the second year in a row.
In fact, Amazon is actually getting a federal tax refund of $129 million [in 2019], due in part to a combination of tax credits and deductions. This is despite the fact that Amazon nearly doubled its taxable income in 2018 to $11.2 billion, from $5.6 billion a year earlier … In fact, [in 2018], Amazon received an even larger refund, getting $137 million from the federal government.
CNBC spoke to a tax policy expert about Amazon’s non-payment of taxes, and noted that the exact figures remain undisclosed:
[Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, or ITEP’s Matthew] Gardner’s report also notes that Amazon’s own income tax disclosure in its quarterly report shows that the company’s lack of federal tax payment this year is at least partly owed to “various unspecified ‘tax credits’” along with the fact that Amazon and other corporations are able to deduct the value of vested shares the company gives to its employees, including stock options given to executives.
Because Amazon’s actual tax filings to the IRS are not public, there is no way to know exactly how large of a deduction the company gets from writing off those vested stock options, or the value of the tax credits it receives from the government, Gardner told CNBC Make It.
As such, it’s true that Amazon not only does not pay taxes, but it has received more than $100 million in refunds from the federal government in recent years. Those refunds were actually worth more than the $98.5 million Bezos “gifted” to various homelessness charities.
Another figure mentioned in a tweet quoted above is that 500,000 Americans are homeless. According to a PDF on WhiteHouse.gov published in September 2019:
Over half a million people go homeless on a single night in the United States. Approximately 65 percent are found in homeless shelters, and the other 35 percent—just under 200,000—are found unsheltered on our streets (in places not intended for human habitation, such as sidewalks, parks, cars, or abandoned buildings). Homelessness almost always involves people facing desperate situations and extreme hardship.
Jeff Bezos’ $98.5 million “gift” to various homelessness charities was met with multiple criticisms: that the amount was equivalent to $45 for a person earning $50,000, that it added up to just .09 percent of Bezos’ net worth, that Amazon does not pay taxes, and that 500,000 Americans were homeless. All of that was broadly true, but with some minor adjustments — by our calculations, the $50,000 wage earner would only have to donate $44.50 to match Bezos’ net worth percentage, and $45 was 0.089 percent of their annual income. It is also true not only that Amazon paid $0 in taxes in 2017 and 2018, but also that in each year the company received over $100 million as a refund.