Warren Buffett: Raise Taxes on Rich People Like Me

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is calling for Congress to "stop coddling the super-rich," and raise income tax rates on those richest Americans, including himself.

Writing in The New York Times on Monday, Buffett opened up about his own taxes to make his point:

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

Buffett explained that loopholes are in place to allow the rich to pay taxes at a lower rate, such as the "bargain" 15% tax rate on money made from stocks and other investments:

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

The capital gains tax was at nearly 40% in the late 1970s and has slowly come down to that 15%. That has resulted in a lower overall tax rate paid by the uber-wealthy, Buffett writes:

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

Buffett proposes that the tax rate for 99.7% of Americans should remain the same. However for that 0.3%...

...for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.