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Write-Off: The Tax Blog

ProPublica posted, this morning, a report on the tax records of the super wealthy. Based on what seems has to be illegally obtained data, they report on the tax payments of Bezos, Musk, Buffett, et al. I will save you readings thousands of words of story by reminding you of a feature of our tax code: If you don’t sell a capital asset, like a stock, you don’t pay any taxes on the gain. The end. Like pretty much every other jurisdiction in the world, we believe in the principle of realization. So, if you are Bezos, Musk, or Buffet, no matter how much your stock is worth, if you don’t sell the stock, you don’t pay taxes on it. It was no surprise that many of these people pay little in tax as a fraction of their wealth, as they don’t sell lot of stock, Berkshire, Amazon, and Tesla pay no dividends, and that would be what generated those tax payments. No big surprises here, at least for anyone who knew this basic fact about the tax law. But, I imagine we will hear a lot more about this story, and others based on this likely-illegal data, in the future.

Whether they should pay taxes is an entirely different point. But, our current tax system is not designed so that they do, and this is well-known to everyone who knows anything about our current tax system.
Here is ProPublica’s justification for publishing the story.

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