Report: The Richest People Pay No Income Taxes

Written by SK Ashby

I've quipped that we could force billionaires to pay another billion in taxes each year and they wouldn't even notice the money is gone, but we apparently need to start from square one.

Before we force them to pay another billion, we have to force them to pay something to begin with.

ProPublica obtained tax records from the IRS that show some of the world most famous billionaires pay little to no income taxes at all.

In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.

Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row. [...]

America’s billionaires avail themselves of tax-avoidance strategies beyond the reach of ordinary people. Their wealth derives from the skyrocketing value of their assets, like stock and property. Those gains are not defined by U.S. laws as taxable income unless and until the billionaires sell.

Just because billionaires paid no income taxes is certain years does not necessarily mean they never did before or after that point, but it's a pretty safe bet that they didn't. What worked in years prior still works as well if not better today. Trump's tax cuts made it even easier to funnel income through business entities to avoid income taxes.

ProPublica calculates that the "true" tax rate of America's billionaires is about 3.4 percent. That's considerably less than a top marginal rate of 35 percent and undoubtedly less than what anyone reading this pays.

President Biden's infrastructure spending proposals call for raising and collecting taxes on capital gains and passive income so that billionaires might actually pay something like everyone else does.

I don't think you have to be a gung-ho "eat the rich" socialist to recognize that billionaires paying less in taxes than school teachers is a fundamental flaw. I don't consider myself a socialist and I think it's absolutely bewildering that we allow this.