A journalistic investigation of secret Internal Revenue Service files has shone a light on ways in which the super wealthy avoid paying taxes.
Pro Publica's Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen, and Paul Kiel reported today that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos did not pay any federal U.S. taxes in 2007 and 2011.
Bezos is the richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
The second wealthiest on that list, Tesla founder Elon Musk, paid no federal taxes in 2018.
Michael Bloomberg, another super-wealthy billionaire, paid no federal taxes in two years. Hedge-fund manager George Soros avoided federal taxes for three years, Pro Publica reported.
"Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most," Eisinger, Ernsthausen, and Kiel declared in their article. "The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year."
Looking at the 25 richest Americans, Pro Publica found that from 2014 to 2018, they only paid 3.4 percent in federal tax as a proportion of their growing wealth, as documented by Forbes. That's because these billionaires did not cash out on their stock portfolios and therefore weren't required to pay taxes on those gains.
In addition, Pro Publica reported, these billionaires could write off losses against their income, sometimes even using their own sports teams' income statements to pay less in tax than the players.
"Others own commercial buildings that steadily rise in value but nevertheless can be used to throw off paper losses that offset income," Pro Publica stated.
Meanwhile in New York, a grand jury is hearing witnesses in the Manhattan district attorney's investigation of the Trump Organization. Media reports have suggsted that District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is investigating whether the company founded by Donald Trump kept two sets of books—one for the purposes of keeping taxes low and the other to obtain better rates on financing.
None of the allegations have been proven in court against Trump. Nor is there any proof that billionaires featured in the Pro Publica article violated any tax laws.