Tax us more! More billionaires ask to pay extra

31st August 2011

Writing in the New York Times, he suggested it was unfair that he was paying less tax than some of his employees, mainly because of the way hedge fund earnings are taxed in the US.

"While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks."

"Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as "carried interest," thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they'd been long-term investors," he wrote.

Buffett faced a lot of criticism from the right wing in the US but billionaires in Europe are now jumping on the bandwaggon.

The Guardian reports that Luca di Montezemolo, the multimillionaire Ferrari chairman, made an offer to pay more in an interview with the Italian centre-left daily La Repubblica earlier this month. He did say he wanted to see Italy cut back on politicians' perks first and dispose of government property first.

Here the Daily Finance reports on super-rich French suggesting they pay more tax.

They include Liliane Bettencourt, the principle shareholder in L'Oreal, Christophe de Margerie, the head of oil giant Total and Maurice Lévy, the head of Publicis, and a member of the Taittinger champagne family though, there is some cynicism from commentators that any tax rises would only represent a proportion of concessions made to the rich already.

In Germany some wealthy people have proposed a wealth tax for the next two years saying the country could raise Euro 100bn.

The German group, Vermögende für eine Vermögensabgabe (The Wealthy for a Capital Levy) is a group who have inherited wealth are not quite in the Buffett, Bettencourt, or Ferrari league but such calls could make it easier for politicians to usher in a change.

Meanwhile in the UK, it is expected that taxes for the wealthy could fall – not rise, simply because the Treasury doesn't believe the top rate tax is proving effective at generating revenue.

Meanwhile in the US, the arguments are getting heated.

Here the NYPress's David Cay Johnston makes a detailed case for higher taxes.

"The mad men who once ran campaigns featuring doctors extolling the health benefits of smoking are now busy marketing the dogma that tax cuts mean broad prosperity, no matter what the facts show," he writes.

But Charles Kadlec writing for Forbes Magazine castigated Buffett for his faux noblesse oblige, adding:  "In reality, Buffett has betrayed his duty to those less fortunate by lending his name and prestige to an ignoble myth – that taxes targeted at the rich do not affect the middle-class and poor. Nothing could be further from the truth."


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