Billionaires Allegedly Pay Almost Nothing in Income Taxes, Surprise, Surprise
In what may come as a surprise to absolutely no one – except maybe that one dude you follow on Facebook from high school who's convinced waking up 5 a.m. like Twitter's Jack Dorsey will skyrocket his MLM supplement “business” to unicorn status -- a new report from ProPublica shows that despite being literal billionaires, the nation's ultra-wealthy are allegedly doing everything they can to avoid paying their fair share of income taxes.
Based on IRS data obtained and verified by ProPublica reporters, it seems that some of the nation's richest individuals, – including a handful of notably famous faces – use legally acceptable strategies to pay significantly less in income taxes than their average counterparts – coughing up “an average of 15.8% of adjusted gross income." While this may sound like a significant rate, this percentage is notably less than the average American after taking into account Social Security, Medicare, and most notably, significant and non-taxable increases in net worth.
After adjusting for net worth increases over time, a calculation the outlet says is a means of determining the “true tax rate” of several ultra-wealthy individuals, it seems some of the beloved power players, often looked to as testaments of hard work and determination, may be paying significantly less than their fair share. According to the calculations included in the article, some of these true tax rates are staggering — 3.27% for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, 1.30% for Michael Bloomberg, 0.98% for Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, and a mere 0.10% for Berkshire Hathaway overlord and Bill Gates's billionaire bestie, Warren Buffett.
While representatives for Bezos declined to comment, many of the individuals, including Buffett and Bloomberg responded to these claims by reiterating that they paid their fair share in taxes, as Elon Musk replied in the most Elon Musk way possible, sending the outlet a single question mark before ignoring subsequent inquiries into the matter. Meanwhile, George Soros, who the outlet also says paid a total of $0 in income taxes over the course of three years, replied with a statement alleging he “lost money on his investments” between 2016 and 2018 and “therefore he did not owe federal income taxes in those years.”
“Mr. Soros has long supported higher taxes for wealthy Americans,” the statement continued.
Now, reader, I know what you're probably thinking – how the hell is this legal? As the report noted, much of this wealth essentially only exists on paper, determined by increasing value in stocks and property, which under U.S. law, are not considered taxable income unless these billionaires sell their assets, a perk that unfortunately, doesn't exactly apply to the rest of us.
Aside from missing out on the material benefits of being a billionaire – dropping $100,000 on an Among Us crewmate-shaped chicken nugget, snagging a roll of golden toilet paper worth $1.3 million, or blowing nearly $25,000 on guinea pig armor, it seems average Americans may also never get the chance to experience these ultra-wealthy-exclusive tax rates. As the outlet noted, the median American household garnered $70,000 in income per year paid 14% in taxes, with the highest income tax rate, reserved for couples who rake in more than $628,300 annually, set at 37%. Yep. Your rich aunt and uncle paid approximately 33.73% more in proportional income taxes than the SpaceX founder himself, based on the calculations of his true tax rate.
The same applies to net worth. While we'd all love to have Bezos-level financial glow-ups on a yearly basis – especially the aforementioned pyramid scheme-partaking high school classmate -- the reality for the average American is once again vastly different. As the outlet noted, households consisting of workers in their early 40s who have acquired an average amount of wealth as compared to their peers saw a post-tax net-worth increase of $65,000 between 2014 and 2018, an upward trend mostly due to the increased value of their homes. Yet instead of selling their assets and using that cash to absolutely ball out, ordering Chipotle guac with reckless abandon, repaying student loans, or buying roughly 371 discontinued Shrek action figures, it seems the households in question don't actually get to see much of this increase, “because the vast bulk of their earnings were salaries, their tax bills were almost as much, nearly $62,000, over that five-year period,” the report explained.
This alarming, albeit thoroughly unsurprising conclusion, comes as a result of the non-profit newsroom mysteriously obtaining a significant amount of data, which they say they received in “raw form, with no conditions or conclusions." After spending “months processing and analyzing the material,” they “then verified the information by comparing elements of it with dozens of already public tax details (in court documents, politicians’ financial disclosures and news stories) as well as by vetting it with individuals whose tax information is contained in the trove," the article explained. “In every instance we were able to check — involving tax filings by more than 50 separate people — the details provided to ProPublica matched the information from other sources," the outlet explained of their evidently laborious verification process.
So billionaires, if you're reading this, please just pay your fair share taxes. I know this is legal, but like, what are you really going to do with billions upon billions of dollars?