Warren Buffett releases tax figures to GOP

Warren Buffett replied this week to a Republican request that he reveal his tax returns, revealing he made more than $62 million in income last year while paying $15,300 in payroll taxes.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) sent an open letter last month to the billionaire investor, who has become the big-business mascot for the Obama administration’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy, demanding that reveal his tax returns. 

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According to Huelskamp — in a view expressed by other Republicans including Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Jim DeMint (S.C.) — if Buffett’s views on tax rates are going to serve as the basis for the White House’s proposals, Congress should be allowed to examine the basis of his argument. Buffett has cited his own tax rate as being lower than that of his secretary when making his case for raising taxes on him and his “ultra rich” friends.

Buffett revealed in a letter sent to Huelskamp that his adjusted gross income was $62,855,038 last year and that he paid $15,300 in payroll taxes, as reported by CNN Money. He also claimed, as he had in an op-ed previously this year, that his federal income tax bill last year came to $6,923,494, or about 17 percent of his $39,814,784 taxable income. 

Huelskamp called Buffett's response "inadequate."

"What he does disclose may be accurate, but it is incomplete and it fails to explain how he shelters millions of dollars in income from taxation," the lawmaker said in a statement. "It is unprecedented that we would write an entire law based on one man’s anecdotes without actual proof. By sheltering millions of dollars of income from taxation, probably through charitable giving, Mr. Buffett demonstrates that he doesn’t trust Washington with his own money either." 

He went on to reiterate his suggestion that Buffett send in "voluntary contributions" if he "is truly concerned about paying his ‘fair share' to the government."

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Earlier this month, Buffett seemingly jokingly declared that he would reveal his tax returns if News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch did the same, a suggestion he repeated in his letter to Huelskamp.

"If you could get other ultra rich Americans to publish their returns along with mine, that would be very useful to the tax dialogue and intelligent reform," Buffett wrote. He even offered to place a wager on his belief that his claims about the tax rates of the mega-rich as cited in his New York Times op-ed earlier this year are accurate.  

"There are at least several Kansas taxpayers with incomes exceeding mine and it would be helpful to your analysis if you would obtain comparable figures from them," Buffett noted in the letter. 

Buffett also slapped down Huelskamp's offer to release his own tax return, writing: "Unfortunately, publishing your tax return or that of other members of Congress would cast no new light on my claim that the ultra rich in many cases are paying less in total taxes (income and payroll taxes paid by them or on their behalf) to the federal government than many of the middle class are paying."

Buffett became a lighting rod for partisan dispute over President Obama’s plan to tax the rich, which he has said will be guided by the “Buffett rule” — a nod to the financial wizard.

“Given the use of your name and your story as the guiding force for the president’s policy prescription, it is my hope that the evidence to justify such a change in policy will soon be available for public review,” Huelskamp wrote in the original letter.

This story was updated at 3:58 p.m.