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Bezos, Musk are not paying taxes : rpt

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Yahoo Finance's Editor in Chief Andy Serwer joins Myles Udland, Brian Sozzi and Julie Hyman to break down the ramifications of the bombshell revelation, which exposed tax documents that disclosed the top 25 billionaires in the U.S. aren't paying their fair share in taxes.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Big ProPublica investigation expose of billionaires not paying their fair share in taxes, or at least not the sort of marginal tax rate that you would think they would be paying. People like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett. And on the other hand, there is the idea that people aren't going back to work unless they get higher wages.

Andy Serwer, our Editor-in-Chief, that was the subject of those two and the synthesis of them was the topic of his weekend column. And so, Andy, how are you thinking about sort of how these two things relate to each other?

ANDY SERWER: Well, you know, I was sort of just struck by these two trends that you were talking about. First of all, the ProPublica story, which talked about billionaires not paying their fair share of taxes. And you know, it was a bit of a leap, because what it was really saying is that these people's net worth was so huge and they weren't paying any money on their net worth, which is sort of a wealth tax argument, which we can get to a little bit later.

Also, that they weren't paying so much when it came to income and they weren't paying 37%, in some cases, not paying any taxes at all in some years, on the one hand, and that they were laboring away trying to avoid taxes, you know, in secrecy with very highly paid accountants. And you can see here, you know, some of the taxes they were paying.

Now, the true tax rate is sort of the tax on their net worth, and people have a problem with that. And again, that, we can talk about that ad nauseum. And on the other hand, you know, this hue and cry about, oh, it's just ridiculous this idea of paying people $15 an hour, working people, it's outrageous. And you know, they're not going back to work because they're getting government assistance.

And we spend so much time and people get so bent out of shape with paying people more, raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, which hasn't been raised since 2009. And yet, on the other hand, the people, the 0.001%, sort of secretly gets to build their wealth, and people don't really pay much attention about it or know about it.

BRIAN SOZZI: And Andy, and very much, this report would seem to open up that debate again on the wealth tax.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, that's exactly right, Brian. And because you know, when you look at people like Bezos and Musk, and they're worth $200 billion, and all of that or most of it is in the form of Amazon stock or Tesla stock, and what do you do about that? Well, you know, of course, you can't tax it until they sell it. And you know, maybe they aren't going to do that, maybe they're never going to do that, because of course, they want to hold on to control of their company.

And so, the solution that Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, and others have proposed is a wealth tax. Now, their idea is 3% for billionaires. You know, I think it could gain some traction. It certainly is sort of a political platform. I just, I don't see it passing Congress, particularly the Senate.

And it's amazing to me how many people in America who aren't super wealthy think it's a bad idea, even though, you know, it can explain to them over and over and over, this wouldn't apply to you. It only is applied to billionaires. And I think this is because of This American notion of being aspirational. That, boy, I want to become a billionaire, and if I ever become one, I don't want to see this tax at all.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, and it's amazing the lengths to which billionaires will go to not pay that full tax rate. I mean, I don't think anyone thinks that those people don't have enough excess cash. All right, Andy, we're going to leave it there. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.