US super-rich including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos 'paid no income tax'

9 June 2021, 07:09 | Updated: 9 June 2021, 10:38

Elon Musk (L) and Jeff Bezos (R) both allegedly paid no income tax in certain years
Elon Musk (L) and Jeff Bezos (R) both allegedly paid no income tax in certain years. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The USA's wealthiest individuals, including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, paid little to no income tax for years, according to tax returns allegedly leaked to a news website.

ProPublica - a not-for-profit investigative journalism organisation - claims to have seen the tax returns of some of the world's richest people, including Warren Buffett, George Soros and Michael Bloomberg.

It alleges Mr Bezos - founder and departing CEO of Amazon - paid no income tax at all in 2007 and 2011, while Mr Musk - Tesla's boss - paid nothing in 2018.

The publication said it had seen tax details covering more than 15 years and will release further details over the next few weeks.

President Joe Biden is now being urged to bring in a wealth tax after ProPublica claimed the 25 richest Americans paid $13.6bn (£9.6bn) - just 3.4 per cent of the increase in their overall fortunes - in federal income taxes between 2014 and 2018.

The website added the individuals used "perfectly legal tax strategies".

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It also calculated their combined wealth leapt by $401bn (£283bn) in the same time period.

However, the alleged leak was branded "illegal" by a White House spokeswoman and the FBI and tax authorities are investigating.

ProPublica claimed Mr Soros - a financier who backs higher taxes for the rich and known by some as the man who broke the Bank of England after shorting the pound sterling in the early 1990s - paid no federal income tax for three consecutive years.

But a spokesman for the billionaire told the website Mr Soros had lost money on his investments between 2016 and 2018 therefore he did not owe federal income tax during that time.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press news agency reported that Mr Musk responded to the publication's request for a comment with a "?".

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Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were among the Democrats demanding the president introduce a wealth tax following the report.

Ms Warren tweeted on Tuesday: "Our tax system is rigged for billionaires who don't make their fortunes through income, like working families do.

"The evidence is abundantly clear: it is time for a #WealthTax in America to make the ultra-rich finally pay their fair share."

The publication comes after the G7 countries agreed a new and fairer tax system for the biggest and most profitable mutinational companies.

Tax avoidance measures can include receiving tax reductions for making charitable donations or by taking no wages.