Some of America’s wealthiest men have reportedly paid no income tax at all in various years over the last decade, according to data leaked to ProPublica.
The website said it had obtained a “vast cache” of information from the Internal Revenue Service — the revenue service of the U.S. federal government, which is responsible for collecting taxes — showing that multibillionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Warren Buffett paid little income tax.
ProPublica said it planned to disclose more information in the upcoming weeks.
According to the leaked data, Bezos paid zero income tax in 2007 and 2011. The Amazon founder and CEO is currently ranked by Bloomberg and Forbes as the richest man in the world, ahead of CEO of Tesla Elon Musk.
Musk allegedly paid no income tax in 2018, while billionaire investor George Soros has reportedly paid no federal income tax for three consecutive years.
Business magnate Carl Icahn, who briefly served as a special economic adviser on financial regulation to former President Donald Trump in 2017, allegedly paid zero income tax twice in the last 15 years, while former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett have also avoided contribution at least once.
"I continue to believe that the tax code should be changed substantially," Buffett wrote in a statement to ProPublica.
"I hope that the earned-income tax credit is increased substantially and additionally believe that huge dynastic wealth is not desirable for our society."
A spokesman for Soros told ProPublica that the billionaire investor had lost money on investments from 2016 to 2018 and therefore did not owe federal income tax for those years.
ProPublica reported that using data collected by Forbes, the combined wealth of the 25 richest Americans soared by $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. Over the four year period, the 25 billionaires paid a combined total of $13.6 billion in income tax, which, in true tax terms equals only 3.4 per cent.
In stark contrast, over the same period, the median American household income has stood at around $70,000, with 14 per cent paid in federal taxes.
Tax authorities and the FBI are both investigating the leak, which a White House spokesperson described as “illegal.”
Following the release, Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted a statement saying,
“True tax rates of billionaires: Warren Buffett: 0.10% Jeff Bezos: 0.98% Michael Bloomberg: 1.30% Elon Musk: 3.27% Tax rate for working class Americans: 24.2% Tax the billionaires. Make them pay their fair share. Rebuild our nation's crumbling infrastructure.”
President Joe Biden has vowed to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans as part of his plans to address financial inequality, and to raise funds for his infrastructure program, proposing a raise to the top tax rate to 39.6 per cent for people earning $400,000 a year or more in taxable income.