EXPLAINER - What is a "wealth tax" and how does it work?

President Joe Biden wants to help pay for his social and economic agendas. He is seeking billionaires.

EXPLAINER - What is a "wealth tax" and how does it work?

Biden did not support an explicit "wealth tax" during his campaign last year. However, his conventional rate increases on income of large corporations or the wealthiest Americans hit a roadblock.

A Senate Democrat proposes a special tax on billionaires' assets, but not their income, as a way to pay for child care, universal preschool, child tax credits and family leave.

Biden has pledged that his programs won't add a penny of deficit to his programs, which means selling Congress and the voters a tax for the richest.0005% of Americans. Here are some details about the billionaires tax.

Billionaires make the majority of their money from their wealth. This could be the stock market. This could include the purchase of rare art or antiquities, as well as beachfront properties. A triceratops skull.

The new tax would only apply to those with assets of at least $1 billion or income exceeding $100 million for the past three years. According to The Associated Press, these standards would mean that 700 taxpayers would be subject to an additional tax on wealth increases.

Billionaires who trade stocks and other items would still have to pay tax, even if the asset is retained. They would be subject to tax on any increase in value, and they could also take deductions for losses. These assets are subject to tax under current law only if they're sold.

A tax would be added to billionaires' non-tradeable assets, such as real property and business interests, once they are sold. The billionaires would also be subject to taxes on any gains they have built up prior to the tax's implementation.


CNN's Sunday report by Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, estimated that the tax would generate $200 billion to $250 billion. Although this is a significant sum, it's still far below the almost $2 trillion in additional spending proposed over 10 years. To close the gap, additional levies like the global minimum tax or increased enforcement dollars for IRS would be necessary.

The revenue forecasts from the wealth tax are also highly questionable.

Allison Schrager is a senior fellow at conservative Manhattan Institute. She stated that "it's just impossible for it to implement." "There is a lot evidence that these things don’t work and I’ve never heard a reason why this could work."


The president would prefer to raise corporate taxes rates than rates on wealthy individuals. This was his original proposal. However, he has to make sure he appeases West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. These are the two crucial Democratic votes that will decide the fate of the evenly divided Senate.

Sinema opposed higher rates. The wealth tax was introduced as an alternative.

After the publication of Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a French economist, the idea gained momentum. Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts made a 2% wealth-tax a signature policy in the 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries. Bernie Sanders, the senator representing Vermont, also proposed a wealth tax.

Biden did not jump on this bandwagon. Biden did however make it a promise to increase taxes for the wealthy, stating that no one with a net worth less than $400,000 would be subject to higher taxes.


It seems that way.

There is much debate over the best taxation. It is better for the economy for wealthy people to invest their assets in new businesses. Is it better to let some of their wealth go to government programs such as universal pre-K, child care, and shifts towards renewable energy?

It is evident that wealthy people have the money to pay taxes, if the government wants to.

According to analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness, a pro-wealth tax organization and the Institute for Policy Studies Program On Inequality, America's billionaires saw their wealth rise 70% to $5 trillion since the beginning of the pandemic. This month's gain is roughly equal to Biden’s spending plans for the past 10 years.

Frank Clemente, the executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, stated that billionaires don't pay any taxes on their extraordinary income from stock holdings during the pandemic. "The billionaires' income tax would tax the annual increase in value of these assets, just as workers' wages are taxed."

At the outbreak of the pandemic there were 614 billionaires in the United States, an amount that has now risen to 745.

The coronavirus is unique in that many Americans who are poorer than the rich became wealthy, but at a slower rate than those who become billionaires.

Federal Reserve data show that the net worth for the bottom 90% of Americans, which includes the middle class, rose by around 22%. Many Americans attribute their wealth growth to a rising stock and home value, as well as unprecedented government assistance in the form direct checks and forgiveable payroll loans for small businesses.


They have found other ways.

To reduce their tax burdens, they can hire an armada of accountants, lawyers and other professionals. ProPublica, a news outlet, revealed a variety of tax shelters using IRS data earlier in the year. The recent Pandora Papers also showed that there is a global industry for protecting the wealth of the politically powerful and very wealthy.

ProPublica's investigation revealed that Warren Buffett was paid an average rate 19%. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was paid 23% while Tesla's Elon Musk was around 30%. The highest tax rate for income earned from labor is 37%. However, the capital gains tax is lower at 20%. This favors people with high wealth. A lower capital gains rate can encourage investment in new businesses that will help grow the economy.

In September, the White House found that the average federal income tax rate for 400 of the nation's wealthiest families was 8.2%. This is based on an analysis done by the White House in September. The administration's main message is that this rate is unfair, as middle-class families often have to pay more in taxes.

Democratic legislators must answer the fundamental question of how to close, or at least narrow, the escape routes for people with extreme wealth. This could involve calculations like the "deferral capture amount" or other technicalities that will be confusing most Americans. The tax law's writing and enforcement will decide how successful a wealth tax is, and possibly the fate of Biden’s ambitious agenda.

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