Specificity can be your friend. I could tell you that an elephant can eat up to 600 pounds of food a day, but you’d get a clearer picture of just how much that is if I said it’s equal to about 1,200 Big Macs.
Of course the idea that major corporations don’t necessarily pay a fair percentage of tax on earnings around the world isn’t new. It’s something people and governments around the globe, including President Trump, have griped about.
But the concept gets put in a bit of a different light when we hear that Ed Sheeran paid more in U.K. tax last year than either Amazon or Starbucks.
Now, “Shape of You” is a pretty catchy tune, but still nowhere near as popular as a venti Frappuccino or Prime delivery. In 2017, Starbucks brought in about $213 million in U.K. profit, and Amazon hit $95 million, while Sheeran notched profits of approximately $35 million. Yet Sheeran, who is the world’s most lucrative solo artist, paid about $6.96 million in taxes, compared to Starbucks’ $4.3 million and Amazon’s $5.9 million tax bill.
Of course, corporate tax is an entirely different animal, particularly when you’re talking about global companies, with strategies that have fun names like Double Irish and Dutch Sandwich. But in the always-on battle for good PR, getting your societal contributions unfavorably compared to a wide-grinning pop star is not a good look.
Amazon is a popular tax whipping boy stateside as well, given that it made more than $5 billion in 2017 but didn’t pay any federal income tax.
Which is probably less than Taylor Swift paid, right?
A previous version of this story referred to Amazon’s UK profit as $2.6 billion, which is actually its most recent reported global profit.