Press: Even Jeff Bezos should pay income taxes

Press: Even Jeff Bezos should pay income taxes
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By all accounts, “Joe from Scranton” scored big at the Group of 7 (G-7) meeting. First, on the personal level, restoring the trust among our historic democratic allies that had been shattered after four years of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE. Second, on the policy level, winning agreement on a wide array of global challenges, including climate change, free trade, competition with China and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Biden’s biggest win was the new G-7 policy on taxes. At his urging, finance leaders from the Group of 7 nations agreed to adopt a new global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent that companies would have to pay — regardless of where they locate their headquarters.

For Biden, the deal is doubly sweet. It will help discourage large multinational companies from evading taxes by moving operations to tax-free havens. It also gives an international, albeit unofficial, stamp of approval to Biden’s proposed back-up plan of a 15 percent minimum tax on U.S. corporations, if Congress does not agree to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.


So far, so good. A minimum corporate tax rate is essential to stop America’s largest corporations from cheating the government out of their fair share of taxes. It’s been going on for decades, but it just keeps getting worse. According to the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 55 of the largest corporations in America — including Archer Daniels Midland, FedEx and Nike — paid no federal income taxes last year, despite racking up almost $41 billion in pre-tax profits. At 21 percent, their total tax bill would have been $12 billion. Instead, they paid zero.

Yes, we need a minimum corporate tax rate. But that’s not enough. As we learned last week, we also need a minimum tax rate on individual taxpayers. Our largest corporations aren’t the only ones jumping through every arcane legal hoop in the books to avoid paying taxes. So are many of our wealthiest individuals. A bombshell report by ProPublica investigative journalists revealed that some of our most famous billionaires are some of our worst grifters. Those who can afford to, and should, pay the most in taxes, actually pay the least.

As detailed by ProPublica, Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosIt's time for US to get serious about cleaning up space junk Press: Give those unemployed writers a job! Progressive group launches M ad campaign to call for tax hikes on the rich MORE — founder of Amazon, owner of The Washington Post and the world’s richest man — paid zero federal income tax in 2007 or 2011. Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskTesla's Musk voices support for Epic amid Apple lawsuit Tesla reports over 0M in energy business revenue in second quarter As inflation and government debt surge, Washington is ignoring our most critical economic crisis MORE, founder of Tesla and the world’s second-richest person, paid not a penny in federal income tax in 2018. Billionaire Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWHO leader issues warning on 'harmful' e-cigarettes Six months in, two challenges could define Biden's presidency Why Democrats' .5 trillion reconciliation bill is a losing game MORE also managed to pay no federal income taxes in recent years, and George Soros escaped federal income taxes three years in a row between 2016 and 2018. Over all, ProPublica discovered that by taking advantage of legal loopholes in the system, the top 25 richest Americans gained $401 billion from 2014 to 2018 while paying very little in income taxes. Even Warren Buffett, who champions higher taxes on the wealthy, only paid 0.1 percent in taxes during those four years.

You can forget about the myth that our tax system is graded so those who earn the most and owe the most actually pay the most in taxes and that, in the end, everybody pays their “fair share.” Baloney! The only ones who pay their fair share today are middle-class American families, who can’t afford the high-price tax lawyers Jeff Bezos can.

Again, it’s not illegal for billionaires to try to lower their taxes, but it’s unpatriotic for them to benefit from all the advantages this country offers — and then seek to pay no taxes at all. A minimum individual tax rate of 15 percent is the answer.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”