How 'insanely corrupt' South Dakota became a magnet for the wealth-hoarding megarich

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Experts on the wealth-hoarding strategies and subterfuges of the world's superrich are weighing in this week on why "billionaires love South Dakota" after a bombshell report revealed that the Republican-led state is a leading global destination for plutocratic tax cheats."South Dakota has sheltered ...
Buffett owns a substantial number of shares in Berkshire Hathaway, the fabulously successful holding company he founded decades ago. As the company's shares have soared nearly every year, his wealth has grown by billions. Under the U.S. tax code, none of that is taxed until he sells shares at a profit.

A little math shows that Buffett's 17.4% rate meant he reported roughly $40.2 million in income in a year where Forbes said his wealth grew by $3 billion. His revelation made it possible to compare how much he was paying the government to the increase in the size of his fortune.

No one did so, and Buffett became something of a folk hero for calling for any increase in taxes.

When we obtained access to a trove of tax data on the richest Americans, it quickly became clear to our reporters that Buffett's comparison of his own tax rate to his employees' vastly understates the inequity of our tax system. Buffett is far from unique; the documents showed that the amount of money people like Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk reported to the IRS as income was infinitesimal when measured against their annual gains in wealth.

And so the first story in our "Secret IRS Files" series set out a new concept that makes more sense in our 21st century Gilded Age; we called it "the true tax rate." We compared the annual taxes paid by the ultrarich to their wealth gains to give readers a sense of how the system really works.

From 2014 to 2018, we pointed out, Buffett paid $125 million in federal taxes. As he said, that sounds like a lot. But according to Forbes, his riches rose $24.3 billion during that period, making his true tax rate 0.1%. In a detailed written response, Buffett defended his practices but did not directly address ProPublica's true tax rate calculation.

When we published this story, howls of rage rang out from the freewheeling corners of Twitter to the ornate offices on Wall Street. Some of the most irate critics wrote to me directly…
Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams
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