As a person who knows more about taxes, investing and Warren Buffett than almost everyone in the world, I feel compelled to comment about the “Buffett rule.”
Buffett is my investing idol. He has made $200 billion by successful investing.
However, the facts are that Buffett owned 475,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway he bought in the 1970s and never sold.
They appreciated almost $47 billion to more than $100,000 a share from around $32 a share.
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Then he donated the entire lot of them to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other charities directed by his three children.
Buffett's total federal tax on these two huge transactions? Zero.
In fact, he got a charitable deduction that he can’t possibly use all of for giving his money away, which he can use to pay the taxes on the money saved and invested after his original purchase of Berkshire (which is a sizable amount).
Government didn’t collect any personal income taxes. The government didn’t, and won’t, collect 55 percent of his estate like they would with someone else who tried to give their money to their children.
In 2009, for instance, fewer than a quarter-million taxpayers (less than two-tenths of 1 percent) reported income of more than $1 million — and their combined bill was less than $200 billion. That’s assuming all those earnings all were capital gains and dividends.
Raising the top tax rate on them by 15 percent, as President Barack Obama wants (to 30 percent from 15 percent) and you bring in only another $60 billion maximum — and that’s if your tax hike doesn’t slow down the economy and cause companies not to hire.
In a yearly U.S budget which spends $1.5 trillion more than it takes in, will the $60 billion really make a difference?
And how many of those investors may decide to "pull a Buffett" and buy a stock like Apple, Google or Berkshire Hathaway and never sell them like Buffett did for 35 years. And then give the money to charity when you die.
A person who did that would have a zero tax bill.
I propose a “new” Buffett rule.
My idea is for a flat 15 percent “death tax” for all estates above $10 million, even if it is given to charity.
Buffett talks about paying his fair share but skirts the estate tax with the bulk of his wealth. This behavior is incongruent and unfair.
If Buffett wants to give his $70 billion estate to charity, let the country get $10.5 billion and the charity get $59.5 billion.
If your estate is less than $10 million, why should you pay a 55 percent tax if you want to give it to your family, while the richest men like Gates and Buffett pay nothing?
Under my plan, below $10 million, you would pay nothing.
After all, you have been paying taxes all your life on the income.
Now $10.5 billion is a lot more than zero, isn't it?
About the Author: Bill Spetrino
Bill Spetrino is a member of the Moneynews Financial Brain Trust. Click Here to read more of his articles. He is also the editor of the Dividend Machine. Discover more by Clicking Here Now.
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