Why does Warren Buffett pay less in taxes than his secretary?

Let’s take a look at this article from the libertarian Cato Institute.

Excerpt:

In 2007, Buffett said that he paid a 17.7 percent tax rate. Alan Reynolds notes that Buffett earns large amounts of capital gains, which are taxed at a maximum federal rate of 15 percent. People in the top income groups do report a lot of capital gains, which reduces their overall effective tax rate. However, capital gains are included in chart 1, above, and you can see that the top income groups still pay much higher tax rates than others on average. One reason is that a large amount of income at the top is small business income, which is hit by ordinary income tax rates of up to 35 percent.

You have to go to the extreme top end of the income spectrum in order for capital gains realizations to really push down overall effective tax rates. The IRS publishes data for the 400 highest-income taxpayers. For these taxpayers, the average effective income tax rate in 2008 was 18.1 percent.

Since the beginning of the income tax, we have nearly always had special treatment of capital gains for some very good reasons, as I discuss here. I point out that virtually all high-income nations recognize that capital gains are different and that special rules are needed. A number of OECD nations have long-term capital gains tax rates of zero, including New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Another important aspect to this debate regards the link between capital gains and dynamism in the economy and dynamism in tax payments. The political left makes it seem as if there were a permanent aristocracy at the top end of the income spectrum in America. However, IRS data show the exact opposite—the top 400 are a highly dynamic group. Notice first in IRS Table 1 that 57 percent of AGI for these taxpayers is capital gains. That is a key reason why the people in this group are constantly changing—large capital gains realizations are occasional events that rocket people to the top of the AGI heap. One example is when an entrepreneur sells her successful and longstanding business and retires.

The last table in the IRS document reveals the dynamism. The IRS traced the identities of all taxpayers who showed up in the top 400 anytime between 1992 and 2008. The IRS found that there were a huge 3,672 different taxpayers who appeared during that timeframe. Of these 3,672, fully 73 percent only appeared once in the top 400! And 85 percent appeared only once or twice.

So at the top end of our capitalist system is a continual generation of new wealth and new wealthy people, and that dynamism reflects the still-energetic and free-wheeling nature of our economy.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Warren Buffett is a big hypocrite.

Excerpt:

Two weeks ago, when billionaire Warren Buffett called for higher taxes on rich people like him, the liberal media predictably gushed and fawned.

Yet when Americans for Limited Government revealed last week that Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway has been in an almost decade-long dispute with the IRS over how much taxes it owes, these same press members couldn’t care less:

According to Berkshire Hathaway’s own annual report — see Note 15 on pp. 54-56 — the company has been in a years-long dispute over its federal tax bills.

According to the report, “We anticipate that we will resolve all adjustments proposed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (‘IRS’) for the 2002 through 2004 tax years at the IRS Appeals Division within the next 12 months. The IRS has completed its examination of our consolidated U.S. federal income tax returns for the 2005 and 2006 tax years and the proposed adjustments are currently being reviewed by the IRS Appeals Division process. The IRS is currently auditing our consolidated U.S. federal income tax returns for the 2007 through 2009 tax years.”

Americans for Limited Government researcher Richard McCarty, who was alerted to the controversy by a federal government lawyer, said, “The company has been short-changing the tax collection agency for much of the past decade.   Mr. Buffett’s company has not fully settled its tax bills from 2002-2009.  Yet he says he’d happily pay more.  Except the IRS has apparently been asking him to pay more going on nine years.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Obama’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline will benefit Buffett.

Excerpt:

Some 20,000 middle-class jobs could have immediately come from Obama’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, with hundreds of thousands more created over the project’s lifetime. Yet he shut it down, even while he claimed in his address that he supported an “all of the above” energy strategy.

As Bosanek might be aware, her boss stands to benefit handsomely from that decision, much as other Obama supporters, like the campaign donors who owned Solyndra and other green enterprises, cleaned up from the diversion of tax dollars from the middle class into green boondoggles.

Keystone XL was designed to transport oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. It apparently also would have enabled oil producers in the booming oil fields of North Dakota to ship their product to Gulf refineries more cheaply.

Keystone XL would help to advance further development of the oilfields in the Bakken Shale formation, which has led to an economic boom in North Dakota.

Plans were under way to tie into Keystone XL and ship increasing amounts of Bakken oil south through the pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries.

Would we rather get our oil from Canada and North Dakota or from the Middle East through the Strait of Hormuz?

Now Bakken producers say they’ll be dependent on railway tank cars — Buffett’s railway tank cars.

Many of the rail shipments from the Bakken fields are being handled by Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co., which has more than 1,000 miles of track in the region.

Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has agreed to buy BNSF in a deal valuing the railroad at $34 billion. Berkshire already owns 22% of Burlington Northern and will pay $100 a share in cash and stock for the rest.

It is the American people who should benefit from our government’s energy policies, not just billionaires and friends of Obama like Warren Buffett.

Now, that would be fair.

And finally, Warren Buffett’s secretary pays a lot in taxes because she has a huge income, which is highly taxed. Her annual income is at least $200,000.

3 thoughts on “Why does Warren Buffett pay less in taxes than his secretary?”

  1. “And finally, Warren Buffett’s secretary pays a lot in taxes because she has a huge income, which is highly taxed. Her annual income is at least $200,000.”

    True, that is high, and sounds like she’s in one of the highest tax brackets. But 18.1% is still extraordinarily low. In order to get that low, you family income needed to be $34,500 or less in 2011. He’s paying a rate that is barely more than what people in the second lowest tax bracket are asked to pay.

    The argument should be about whether or not this country should have a flat or progressive tax rate. But it makes no sense to make loopholes that allow a few people at the very, very top to so grossly benefit year after year, while everyone else is paying a progressive tax.

      1. You are my hero for saying that. Create jobs not handouts. And let the people do it, not the government

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s