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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Are the super-rich who advocate taxes really altruistic?

With Obama's San Francisco adventure on Billionaire's Row, there's been a lot of discussion about "altruistic billionaires". With guys like Warren Buffett and other leftish billionaires advocating tax increases, one may well think they're doing it out of a spirit of altruism.

And maybe some, or even most, of them are.

But one point about these guys is that tax increases won't affect them or their lifestyles. They're already rich. In the US, taxes are on cash flow, not wealth, so even a massive income tax increase won't affect these guys' lifestyles in the least - while advocating tax increases will definitely enhance their "man of the people" street cred with the Davos crowd.

One other thing about guys like Buffett: while he may advocate higher tax rates, one can be certain he'll avail himself of the best tax lawyers on the planet to minimize his own tax bill.

Comments:
Beyond Buffet's tax lawyers, which I'd do too in his place, is the tidy little side business he's got going writing estate insurance to protect entities like small businesses and family farms from having to sell out, or reorganize, when the patriarch dies and the estate taxes kick in. His scam may be in the reinsurance side of the industry, but the concept is as I've outlined it. I think I learned of this in conjunction with one of his ballyhoo pronouncements dissing the R's for wanting to eliminate the death tax. If any of the above is factually incorrect, let me know.
 
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