Wyden renews wealth tax push after billionaires’ returns leak


“I can confirm that there is an investigation with respect to the allegations that the source of the information in that article came from the Internal Revenue Service,” he said.

In response to a question from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, Rettig said the IRS would “absolutely” refer the source of the leak for criminal prosecution if the investigation finds the law protecting taxpayer information was violated.

Effective tax rate: 3.4 percent

While Wyden was alarmed about the unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer records, he was as equally dismayed at ProPublica’s findings in reviewing the returns of billionaires such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; Tesla founder Elon Musk; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg; Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates; media mogul Rupert Murdoch; and Michael Bloomberg, the former presidential candidate and founder of Bloomberg LP.

The report revealed that those individuals and others whom Forbes ranks in the top 25 wealthiest Americans saw their collective net worth rise $401 billion from 2014 to 2018, while they paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, amounting to an average effective tax rate of 3.4 percent.

That’s largely because, under long-established U.S. tax law, gains in asset values, such as corporate stock, aren’t taxed until the assets are sold. And business owners can structure their compensation so a smaller share is treated as wages or dividends, which are taxed annually.

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