A new report by ProPublica shows Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, George Soros, Warren Buffett and other billionaires often pay little or no federal taxes.
The same holds true for other American billionaires, according to Internal Revenue Service records obtained by the nonprofit news organization.
The records show how the super wealthy are able to avoid paying federal taxes even as everyday workers and small businesses here on the Eastern Shore and across the country pay higher tax rates.
A household making $70,000 per year (the median U.S. income) pays about 14% of their income in federal taxes, according to the report. That compares to the 3.4% in taxes paid by the super-rich, according to ProPublica.
That includes Buffett — who has been hailed for calling for tax increases on the wealthy — and Bezos and Musk, who are planning private ventures into space.
The IRS’ response to the report is to launch an investigation into who leaked the billionaires’ tax records.
That says a lot.
The revelations show the obvious need for tax reforms and closing tax shelters used by the rich and big businesses, who have long taken advantage of tax shelters and offshore havens.
The idea that Bezos — who founded Amazon, owns the Washington Post and will soon venture into space — pays a lower tax rate than your cashier at the grocery store or your Amazon delivery driver also shows something most of us already know.
The house always wins.
Tax codes are not written for cashiers, bartenders or office workers. They are written by K Street lobbyists and lawmakers (from both parties), who are often too beholden to rich donors, Wall Street and corporate interests.
Consequently, the likes of Musk and Buffett have plenty of tax loopholes to take advantage of while Amazon and DoorDash delivery drivers figure out their mileage deductions and itemize their Salvation Army and Goodwill donations.
This is a bipartisan problem though we hope progressives press the Biden administration and congressional leaders for some remedies. They also need to ask freelancers, independent contractors and small business owners about the fairness of the tax code.
The tax revelations are on top of the dynamics of the pandemic which saw stock market records and the super rich add even more wealth while restaurant, retail and other workers lost jobs and livelihoods.
These types of inequalities and inequities erode social contracts and trust in our economy, political system and the tax code.
We don’t begrudge anyone’s success, but the report shows who the tax code is written for and how the billionaire class and super wealthy take ample advantage.