The United States is investigating leaked records showing that billionaires pay little tax

The U.S. tax authorities have launched an investigation into a leak of private records of billionaires including Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg and Elon Musk which showed that many of them were paid poorly. tax even when their wealth resembled it.

ProPublica published details of what he called “a vast array of Internal Revenue Service data” covering more than 15 years of tax returns from thousands of wealthier Americans. The nonprofit investigative journal did not disclose the source of the leak.

His report concluded that legal tax evasion strategies had allowed the 25 richest Americans to pay only $ 13.6 billion in federal income taxes in the five years to 2018, even when the value growth in its shares, property and other assets had inflated its collective wealth by an estimated $ 401bn.

Charles Rettig, u IRS commissioner, he told a Senate finance committee hearing that the agency had opened an investigation to find out the source of the leak. He said he shared “every American’s concerns” that sensitive confidential information has been disclosed.

Bloomberg, a former New York mayor and U.S. presidential candidate, is committed to using “all legal means” to uncover the source of the leak. The founder of the eponymous financial reporting group denied the premise of the article, saying he “scrupulously obeys the letter and spirit of the law” and distributes about three-quarters of his annual income in taxes and donations charitable.

“The release of a private citizen’s tax returns should raise real privacy issues, regardless of political affiliation or vision of fiscal policy,” he said in a statement. “We intend to use all legal means at our disposal to determine which individual or government entity has leaked these and to ensure that they are held accountable.”

The escape comes as some Democrats are favoring a tax on the total wealth of the richest Americans, rather than focusing on annual incomes that can be offset by deductions, indebtedness, and investment losses.

Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, introduced legislation this spring to apply a 2 percent tax to individuals with a net worth of more than $ 50m, with a 1% supplement taxed on any higher wealth. at $ 1bn. President Joe Biden has proposed increase in the tax rate on capital gains and dividends for those earning more than $ 1m but not sustaining the wealth tax.

Warren took the ProPublica report, writing on Twitter showing that it was time “to make the ultra-rich finally pay their fair share.”

Morris Pearl, chairman of a group of rich militants for higher taxes on the rich called the Patriotic Millionaires, said the report reinforced the argument that richer Americans “can basically choose whether to pay taxes or not.” .

Wealth taxes and higher unrealized capital gains taxes that his group advocated were “marginal ideas” when it was launched in 2010, he says, but sentiment had changed and ProPublica’s disclosures could further strengthen support.

Bloomberg and Buffett have been among the billionaires demanding higher taxes for richer Americans for several years, but the economic divisions exposed by the pandemic have increased the political stakes.

ProPublica said it had decided to disclose the details “because it is only by seeing specifics that the public can understand the realities of the country’s tax system.”

Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said the ProPublica report showed that “the richest people in the country, who have benefited tremendously during the pandemic, have not paid their fair share.” .

Swamp notes

Rana Foroohar and Edward Luce discuss major issues at the intersection of money and power in U.S. politics every Monday and Friday. Subscribe to the newsletter here

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