Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Super rich in US pay ‘zero income tax’

- Agence France-presse

NEW YORK: Several of the richest Americans have paid zero income tax in some years, according to an investigat­ive report published on Tuesday that comes as Washington weighs new proposals to address tax avoidance by the wealthiest individual­s and companies.

The bombshell report, by New York-based journalism nonprofit entity Propublica, showed Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011, while Tesla chief Elon Musk avoided all payments in 2018.

Some of the richest Americans “pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth - sometimes, even nothing”, said Propublica, which did not disclose how it obtained the confidenti­al tax data.

Others who paid nothing as taxes in some years included news industry billionair­e and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, activist investor billionair­e Carl Icahn, and philanthro­pist George Soros.

Propublica says the billionair­es did nothing illegal in their tax declaratio­ns, but employed tax-avoidance strategies “beyond the reach of ordinary people”.

They also benefited from the way taxable income is defined in the US tax code, since it does not take into account the growing value of assets like stock and property, and only taxes proceeds from sales of those items.

The report comes days after G7 finance ministers endorsed a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15%, one of several tax proposals aimed at ensuring profitable multinatio­nals pay their fair share.

Other efforts include Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s initiative to tax the superwealt­hy, including the value of their stock holdings and homes, rather than focusing on income alone.

“Our tax system is rigged for billionair­es who don’t make their fortunes through income, like working families do,” Warren said as she published the Propublica article on Twitter. “It is time for a #Wealthtax in America to make the ultra-rich finally pay their fair share.”

Propublica’s report is based on tax returns of extremely wealthy people over more than 15 years. “Taken together, it demolishes the cornerston­e myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most,” the article said.

The treasury department and other authoritie­s are probing the release of the tax returns. “The unauthoris­ed disclosure of confidenti­al government informatio­n is illegal,” treasury spokeswoma­n Lily Adams told AFP.

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