IRS leak: Which billionaires paid zero in taxes?

ProPublica released a damning report this week, based on information leaked from the IRS, detailing how the ultra-rich in the United States have managed to pay taxes amounting to only a tiny fraction of the unbelievable amount of money they hoard. The report also showed that a number of them — including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and George Soros — have managed to avoid paying any federal taxes at all in years where their wealth increased by millions or billions of dollars. Warren Buffet grew $24.3 billion richer between 2014 and 2018, but paid only 0.1% of that sum in taxes. 

Using loopholes and workarounds, the billionaires identified in the report have avoided paying taxes on their massive wealth legally, which is in-and-of itself a condemnation of the system. The researchers examining the leaked information found that between 2014 and 2018 the 25 richest people in the country paid just 3.4% of their income in federal taxes. 

In addition, studies have shown that, despite the clear discrepancies between the wealth and true tax rate for these capitalists, the people who are most likely to get audited are people in poor, rural, mostly Black areas in the South who qualify for the Earned Income Credit due to their low income. So while nobody in power bats an eye when the rich avoid paying taxes, working class people are considered suspect and are subject to extra scrutiny for being poor.

The ultra-rich use their power and influence to hoard unthinkable amounts of money, and to make (and keep) it legal to do so. Meanwhile, important social programs that benefit working people go woefully underfunded as a direct result of the wealth being stockpiled by those at the top. Education, housing, healthcare, transportation, water and more are human rights that should be fully funded for all people. But instead, due to the exploitation of workers and the greed of the capitalists, these programs are underfunded and failing. Working class people struggle to pay for all of these necessities, and on top of that are paying far and away more in taxes than people who have exponentially more wealth.

Following the release of the report and citing the privacy concerns of the billionaires who were exposed, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that investigating the source of the leak is a top priority for him and the Department of Justice. His priority is not to investigate the billionaires who have been avoiding taxes, but to prosecute the whistleblower who provided the information to ProPublica! 

The person who leaked this information should not be prosecuted or penalized. They were acting in the public interest and helped to shine a light not only on the magnitude of the wealth disparity in this country, but also on the mechanisms used by the ultra rich to maintain and grow those inequalities. It is horrendous that the capitalists identified in the article have used these loopholes in order to avoid paying taxes, but it is even more so that the capitalist system allows, encourages, and requires wealth hoarding. When the mask is pulled back and this system exposed, we must not criminalize those who reveal the truth.

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