U.S. tax authorities have opened an investigation into a leaked private records of billionaires including Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg and Elon Musk, which showed many of them paid little tax even as their wealth was increasing.
ProPublica released details of what it called “a vast Internal Revenue Service data treasure chest” spanning more than 15 years of tax returns for thousands of the richest Americans. The nonprofit investigative newspaper did not reveal the source of the leak.
His report concluded that legal tax avoidance strategies had allowed the richest 25 Americans to pay just $ 13.6 billion in federal income taxes in the five years leading up to 2018, even as the growing value of their stocks, properties and other assets had inflated their collective wealth by around $ 401 billion.
Charles Rettig, the IRS commissioner, said during a Senate finance committee hearing that the agency has opened an investigation to find the source of the leak. He said he shared “the concerns of every American” about the disclosure of sensitive confidential information.
Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and presidential candidate, pledged to use “all legal means” to find the source of the leak. The founder of the eponymous financial information group rejected the premise of the article, claiming that he “scrupulously obeyed the letter and the spirit of the law” and distributed about three-quarters of his annual income in taxes and in charitable donations.
“The publication of a citizen’s tax returns should raise real privacy concerns, regardless of their political affiliation or opinions on tax policy,” he said in a statement. “We intend to use all legal means at our disposal to determine which person or government entity has disclosed this information and to ensure that it is held accountable.”
The leak comes as some Democrats advocate a tax on the total wealth of the richest Americans, rather than focusing on annual income that can be offset through deductions, borrowing and investment losses.
Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, introduced legislation this spring to impose a 2% tax on people with net worth over $ 50 million, with an additional 1% surtax imposed on any wealth over $ 50 million. $ 1 billion. President Joe Biden has proposed increases in the capital gains tax rate and dividends for those earning more than $ 1 million, but has not supported the wealth tax.
Warren took to the ProPublica report, writing on Twitter that it showed it was time “to get the ultra-rich to finally pay their fair share.”
Morris Pearl, chairman of a group of wealthy activists for raising taxes on the wealthy called the Patriotic Millionaires, said the report reinforced his argument that wealthier Americans “can essentially choose whether or not to pay taxes.” .
The wealth taxes and higher taxes on unrealized capital gains his group advocated were “fringe ideas” when it launched in 2010, he said, but sentiment had changed and the disclosures of ProPublica could further strengthen support.
Bloomberg and Buffett have been among billionaires calling for tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans for several years, but the economic divides exposed by the pandemic have raised the political stakes.
ProPublica said it decided to reveal the details “because only by seeing the details can the public 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 wealthiest in the country, who have benefited immensely from the pandemic, have not paid their fair share “.