I am among the richer men of the United States and the world, but pay some of the lowest effective tax rates. Multi-billionaires like Warren Buffett by Berkshire Hathaway, the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos, the former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg or the founder of Tesla Elon Musk in recent years they have managed to pay very low amounts in taxes compared to the increase in their wealth. In some cases and for a few years, they have even culled fino a zero the burden on them under the American federal tax on individuals (here, the infographic and the numbers of the meager taxes paid by American super billionaires).
The investigation and the data of the Internal Revenue Service
The investigation was conducted by ProPublica, the non-profit organization of investigative journalism based in New York. ProPublica came into possession of detailed data from the Internal Revenue Service (the US equivalent of the Revenue Agency) and analyzed the incomes, assets and investments of the largest tycoon of the country. The very detailed picture that emerges is that of a world apart.
The rates that (not) burden the super billionaires
In America there are the middle classes, who pay rates on their incomes between 14% and 37%. And then there is a separate dimension in which they live the richest, which on the net increase in their assets between 2014 and 2018 pay perfectly 0.1% (as happens to Warren Buffett, on a growth of 24 billion dollars in five years) or 0.98% ( as happens to Jeff Bezos, on a wealth increased of 99 billion) or 3.27% (as Elon Musk manages to do, on a wealth increased of almost 14 billion).
Thus two parallel universes emerge in American society. Between 2014 and 2018, middle-class forty-year-old families saw their assets grow on average by $ 65,000, mainly thanks to the increase in the value of their properties, and paid almost as many to the tax authorities as personal income tax or as a couple. Meantime the 25 richest Americans saw their assets grow by $ 401 billion but paid just 3.4% of this amount to the tax authorities.
Zero taxes for billionaires: why?
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world today, managed to pay no federal income tax at all in 2007 and again in 2011, when he was already a billionaire. Elon Musk did the same in 2018, and Michael Bloomberg, the founder of the largest financial information platform in the world, has done the same in recent years.
The mechanism often behind these colossal imbalances is almost always the same: many of the wealthiest men have relatively low incomes, in proportion to their assets, and they owe the increase in their wealth to increase in the value of companies founded by them or the portfolio of their real estate investments and portfolios. And in America, taxes on the increase in invested assets are paid only when they are liquidated. Never before.
The trick of family offices
There are obviously other techniques available to the richest to reduce payments, always in a legal manner. For example, some of them make up family office for the management of their assets and place them fiscally in Caribbean tax havens. After all, American federal legislation favors and rewards these solutions. Last weekend, the G7 finance ministers agreed in principle that large multinationals have to pay at least a 15% tax rate on their profits. Wherever they are made or transferred. That was a first step to compensate for the imbalances that have grown over the past thirty years between the largest and most powerful players – be they businesses or individuals – and everyone else. But there is still a long way to go to contain inequalities. And uphill.