The billionaire’s guide to doing taxes

“Do you want to pay less taxes? Great. Step one, be a rich person. Then, buy a yacht. Or a sports team. Give a lot to charity. Lose some money in the stock market. Above all, make sure most of your money exists in the form of assets, not cash — stocks, real estate, a Dutch master painting, fine jewelry, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
They say that money is a universal language, but it speaks at different volumes. When you have a fathomless bounty of wealth, money doesn’t quite register as an expense until you add a lot of zeros to the end — so spending a lot to save a lot is a no brainer. It’s why the mega-rich often hire expensive tax lawyers, wealth managers, or even set up a whole office dedicated to tax strategy. “It’s not just preparing the return,” says Paul Wieseneck, a tax accountant and director of the Fuoco Group. “There’s so much more involved in planning, in accumulating, offsetting, and trying to mitigate the taxes as best as possible.””

“Jeff Bezos, when he was still Amazon CEO, had a base salary of around $80,000 a year. Elon Musk doesn’t take a salary at all at Tesla. Apple CEO Tim Cook does get a $3 million salary, but it’s a small slice of the $63 million he received overall last year. Most wealthy entrepreneurs are paid in bountiful stock rewards; Musk is currently fighting to keep his record-breaking Tesla pay package, made up of a bunch of stock options and now valued at almost $56 billion. ProPublica found that, because their income fell below the threshold, at least 18 billionaires got a Covid-19 stimulus check.

Paul Kiel, a ProPublica reporter who was an integral part of the newsroom’s billionaire tax return stories, says the income versus wealth divide was crucial in helping the public understand how differently the wealthy operate. “If you can avoid income as it’s defined in our system, and still get richer, that’s the best route,” he tells Vox.

Stocks aren’t taxed until they’re sold — and even then, what’s taxed is the profit on the sale, called a capital gains tax. Billionaires (usually) don’t sell valuable stock. So how do they afford the daily expenses of life, whether it’s a new pleasure boat or a social media company? They borrow against their stock. This revolving door of credit allows them to buy what they want without incurring a capital gains tax. Though the “buy, borrow, die” strategy isn’t quite as sweet right now because interest rates are high, a Wall Street Journal piece from 2021 notes that those with $100 million or more could get interest rates as low as 0.87 percent at Merrill Lynch. The taxable value of a stock also resets when it’s passed on to an heir, so that if a wealthy scion chooses to sell their inherited stock, they’d only pay a tax on the increase in value since the original owner’s death.”

““We’ve talked to a lot of former IRS agents, and they would often hear the line that for wealthy taxpayers, their tax return is like an opening offer,” says Kiel.”

https://www.vox.com/money/2024/3/13/24086102/billionaires-wealthy-tax-avoidance-loopholes

Does taxing the wealthy lower inflation?: Video Sources

Fiscal Policy – The Economic Lowdown Podcast Series Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. https://www.stlouisfed.org/education/economic-lowdown-podcast-series/episode-21-fiscal-policy How Can Fiscal Policy Help Reduce Inflation? Peter G. Peterson Foundation. 2023 3 7. https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2023/03/how-can-fiscal-policy-help-reduce-inflation US history lesson: Taxes on rich people helped to beat inflation (and

The ultrarich are getting cozy in America’s tax havens at everyone else’s expense

“One of the revelations of the Pandora Papers leaked in 2021 was the proliferation of tax havens inside the US. They’re used not just by wealthy Americans but by foreign politicians, business leaders, and criminals as well. South Dakota in particular has become a destination for the wealthy to stash their riches, and it currently hosts more than $512 billion in trusts, according to the IPS report. The ultrarich have parked trillions of dollars in secretive trusts within US tax haven states.
“It’s not just South Dakota, it’s not just Delaware,” said Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and one of the authors of the tax haven report. “A bunch of states are in the chase.”

The benefit for states is attracting businesses and jobs, but there’s little evidence that becoming a trust-friendly tax haven boosts job growth for states. Populous states like Texas and Florida are getting in on the game, too. It could accelerate what Collins calls a “race to the bottom,” in which more states change laws to attract the trust industry.

A trust is a contract that stipulates what assets one person wants to pass on to another. When assets are put into a trust, the original wealth-holder technically no longer owns them. A third-party entity, known as a trustee, manages the assets for a named beneficiary until the terms of the trust are fulfilled — for example, a parent establishes a trust for their child that will transfer assets to them when they turn 25 or upon the parent’s death. A trust is supposed to end at some point, and ownership of assets is supposed to pass to the beneficiary; it’s a way station for wealth, not the final destination.

Except that a growing number of trusts don’t end. None of the 13 tax haven states has a strict life span limit on trusts. Several states have abolished a rule limiting the life span of trusts altogether. Others set the limit somewhere between 300 and 1,000 years. By carefully setting up a dynasty trust that lasts generations, a wealthy family can avoid paying inheritance or estate taxes for millennia. These trusts often obfuscate who really owns the assets, so they can continue using them — assets like real estate or yachts — or take out “loans” from the trust without triggering gift taxes. The secrecy and confusing ownership structures of trusts are big problems. The government can’t tax something that legally doesn’t belong to a person anymore, and it certainly can’t tax assets that it doesn’t even know exist.”

The wealthy get a free lunch on capital gains taxes. Let’s fix that. VIDEO SOURCES.

How could changing capital gains taxes more revenue? Grace Enda and William G. Gale. 2020 1 14. Brookings. The rich benefit as Democrats retreat from tax on unrealized capital gains Greg Iacurci. CNBC. 2021 12 29. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/29/the-rich-benefit-as-democrats-forgo-tax-on-unrealized-capital-gains.html The Many Problems With Taxing