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Tax rates and the super-rich
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, June 27, 2007

This (found at Instapundit and Waldo Jaquith) is very tiresome...
Speaking to several hundred supporters of the U.S. Senator from New York, Buffett revealed his puzzlement that he was taxed at a lower rate than many of the lesser-paid individuals working for his company. Buffett said he makes $46 million a year in income and is only taxed at a 17.7 percent rate on his federal income taxes. By contrast, those who work for him, and make considerably less, pay on average about 32.9 percent in taxes - with the highest rate being 39.7 percent.

To emphasize his point, Buffett offered $1 million to the audience member who could show that one of the nation's wealthiest individuals pays a higher tax rate than one of their subordinates.
Yeah, well, if I gave $1.5 billion to charity every year, I'd probably wind up paying a lower tax rate, too. Funny that he never mentions that fact when he peddles this line.

And exactly how much is he paying his secretary? Because official statistics of effective total federal tax rates (what people actually pay in all federal taxes) reveal that the only group paying more than 30% in total federal taxes is....the top 1%. And even they only pay 31.4% — less than Warren Buffett claims his staff averages.

Buffett is either paying his staff millions apiece, or they're getting very bad tax advice.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
I really respect the man as a business man. He’s been brilliant...

But his views on taxes suggests that he may not be an economic genius. In fact, it suggests he’s never even read a tax-code...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Yes, he doesn’t realize that his billions of dollars do infinitely more good for the poor when invested on the stockmarket than when given back to the govt in taxes.

If he really wanted to help the poor, he’d take all the money he feels that should go to our govt and invest it as venture capital in small startups.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Buffet has a lower tax rate because he pays himself largely through dividends from Berkshire Hathaway, which are taxed at a lower rate than W-2 income. I don’t see anything scandalous about it, but Buffet seems to.

Many executives are compensated through stock options. Depending on the kind of option and how they are exercised, the tax rate on them can be lower than that on W-2 income (some stock options are W-2 income, regardless of how they are exercised).

But 17.7% of $46 million is about $8 million in taxes paid. I doubt very much any of Buffet’s subordinates pay that much in taxes.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
I love the idea of Buffett paying his secretary $1M. :)
 
Written By: Waldo Jaquith
URL: http://waldo.jaquith.org/
Perhaps he’s suggesting lower rates for regular income. If only.
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Harvard Econ. Professor, Greg Mankiw, pointed out on his blog that Mr. Buffett’s analysis left out a critical factor. His income came from corporate dividends, which are paid out after the corporation pays its own 35% income tax.

[Mankiw wrote]’...You might wonder how Mr Buffett managed such a low tax rate. Most likely, it arose because corporate dividends and capital gains are taxed at only 15 percent. But the corporate income that funded those returns was already taxed at the corporate level, where the tax rate is 35 percent. Mr Buffett seems to be ignoring the first round of taxation...’
 
Written By: KB
URL: http://
" Buffett revealed his puzzlement..."

Oh puhleeaz! Only if he is senile, in which case why pay attention? If he feels guilty, he knows where to send the check.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Mr. Buffet also doesn’t say if his AA is married and filed a join return. What does her husband make a year?

Also if Mr. Buffet thinks he pays too little in taxes, he should just tell his CPAs what he wants to pay and they will work it out. No Problem.

Amazingly Mr. Buffet seems to have been able to cut his tax rate almost in half in 3 years. In 2003 he was spouting off about the same thing except in that example he said he and his AA were paying the same 30% rate.
The taxes I pay to the federal government, including the payroll tax that is paid for me by my employer, Berkshire Hathaway, are roughly the same proportion of my income — about 30 percent — as that paid by the receptionist in our office.
 
Written By: Jay Evans
URL: http://
Is something preventing him from voluntarily paying more taxes?
 
Written By: Paul
URL: http://
You mean besides him not wanting to pay more taxes?
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Umm... just to point out the obvious...
The OP said "federal taxes" (income is implied). Buffet just said "taxes" and probably means "total income taxes". Depending on the state, that could easily cover the difference in numbers.

As for the businesses paying the 35% already, they are separate legal entities from their owners. (Thus the protection from getting sued, bankrupcy, etc. (yes those are good things)) However, as separate entities, he has not already paid those taxes.
 
Written By: Tito
URL: http://
Buffet just said "taxes"
And his contribution to social security ends at 90K. That bumps his employees’ rates up quite a bit in comparison to his.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://

 
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