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Bezos’ Taxes In the Spotlight

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Jeff Bezos pays taxes! We learned exactly how much from a ProPublica expose about the personal tax details of some of America’s richest people. The publication got what it said was a “vast trove” of confidential tax records covering a 15-year period for Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg, although it appears to be holding back the juiciest material for future stories. (Yes, a leak investigation at the IRS is already underway.) The ripples from this report are likely to be felt for a while, including in Washington.

Of course, ProPublica’s takeaway from the tax records is the opposite of ours. We learned Jeff Bezos paid $1.4 billion in federal taxes on $6.5 billion in reported income between 2006 and 2018. That’s an effective tax rate of 21.5%, which isn’t bad. As the same report said, the median American household has lately paid an effective rate of 14%. ProPublica, though, chose to interpret things in the most inflammatory way possible, by comparing the taxes paid to the humongous increase in the wealth of Bezos and other moguls over that same period, based on estimates by Forbes. On that basis, Bezos’ tax rate is very low. But looking at things that way is wrong-headed, to put it charitably. 

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