What Exactly is a Billionaire Tax — and How Would it Work?

Following months of discussions upon the big social spending bill of President Joe Biden, Democrats in Congress are finding their methods to pay for it have zeroed in on billionaires in America.

Not many details have been shared till now on the proposal but this one is rigid for sure

The very few details of the program have been disclosed till now and discussions upon the social spending bill are still variable. But the concept from Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, mainly focuses on applying a more rigid version of taxes on capital gains on the ultra-rich class of people.

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It has been stated by tax experts and investors Democratic lawmakers have proposed a very first kind offer to tax billionaires in the United States regarding the assets held by them is supposed to combat challenges from the ultra-rich and maybe even difficult to execute. 

The proposal will make 700 billionaires pay taxes when they self of their capital assets

The proposal is all set to be revealed as soon as on Tuesday and would make nearly 700 billionaires in the U.S liable to pay their taxes yearly when the value of their stocks and few other assets increases as confirmed by some sources who are familiar with the subject.

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As of now, billionaires are only liable to pay such taxes when their stocks are already sold.

The proposal will help in raising nearly $250 billion

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives claims it is expected by the Democrats that the program would help in raising an amount of nearly $250 billion which will further support in paying for the expansion of the social security net as well as handling the climate crisis.

In an appearance on Sunday, Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary said that “It would help get at capital gains, which are an extraordinarily large part of the incomes of the wealthiest individuals, and right now escape taxation.”


The proposal is raising some logical questions on what counts as an income. When individuals purchase assets like shares of stock, a part of real estate, by default a business becomes more treasurable over time, they are liable to pay taxes just on the appreciation when the asset is sold.

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This is the basic characteristic of the capital gains tax we have learned for decades. On the contrary, those who are making money by working are liable to pay income taxes annually on those earned incomes.

Provisions may be difficult to execute

There may be certain difficulties in implementing the provisions despite it becoming the regulation. It has been cited by some experts that the wealthy people will move their wealth down from assets that are simple to trace and levy tax as per the new regulations to such assets that are not. They also caution that a strong decline in the market might also provide billionaires with a new tax relaxation.

Billionaire Leon Cooperman, an investor who cautioned such a rule may be the reason for “unnatural” economic setback, said that “It’s a stupid idea,” further adding “The progressives are out to lunch.”

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However, an economics professor of the University of California at Berkeley, Gabriel Zucman, whose study on the subject assisted in encouraging Democratic Tax regulations and proposals claimed that “billionaires have lower taxes than the middle class” as a part of their earnings. He said “It would be historic. It would be the most progressive tax ever.”

Getting billionaires to put up may be the one reason that can unite Democrats who are making attempts in solving other political conflicts upon deciding what should be included in their social spending bill.

As per a source who is familiar with this matter, Biden supports imposing tax liabilities upon the billionaires and corporations more intensely and has personally backed the proposal aimed at levying taxes on wealthy Americans.  

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On Monday, Joe Manchin, the senior Democratic Senator from West Virginia, with an online veto upon Biden’s vision in the neutrally divided Senate stated “I’m open to any type of thing that makes people pay that’s not paying now.”

Challenges Afore

In case the proposal gets sanctioned, it will probably have to face challenges in court and by those taxpayers who want to escape the regulations. 

As stated by a lawyer who leads tax policy and research at Rockefeller Capital Management, Tim Laffey, who handles earnings of wealthiest people, “I could potentially see people trying to get out of easier-to-value assets,” adding further said, “Obviously, everything that’s publicly traded has an established value, so maybe we see a push into alternative investments.” Along with that he also stated that the proposal may have to face legal difficulties like questioning if the appreciated assets that have not been sold off can be considered as taxable income by the federal government.

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Republicans are dissented with the social spending bill by Biden and most probably they will also support the proposal of billionaire tax as well. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader said “They are talking about rewiring the entire economy after a couple of days’ discussions on the back of an envelope,” adding further “harebrained scheme” had not gained “any meaningful study or scrutiny.”

Under the proposal, though the information has not been finalized yet, the surplus on stocks and some assets that are easy to trade will apply to taxes just for the taxpayers in the U.S. who hold assets of more than $1 billion or $100 million in earnings for three succeeding years as per the report of a source familiar with the subject.

Instead of putting aside the invoices endlessly by holding on to the assets, the billionaires would rather be required to pay capital gains tax on their surplus of that year. Losses will neutralize that liability. The tax on capital gains for assets retained over a year tops out at 23.8 percent presently, less than the 37 percent utmost for regular earnings.

Surcharge while selling the assets

The new legislation will also be imposed on such assets that cannot be traded easily such as real estate or stock in a business. In such a scenario, the wealthiest Americans would necessarily be paying a surcharge as well when they sell their assets.

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On Monday as said by the spokesperson of the investor and liberal activist, George Soros, is “supportive” and not all billionaires are in opposition of the new proposal. 

In June a ProPublica report stated Soros hasn’t paid federal income tax for three years consecutively. As per private Internal Revenue Service data, it stated Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) Elon Musk and Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Jeff Bezos had also been capable of avoiding the entire liability of the federal income tax within some years.

Most probably there will be a set of rules which will be incorporated in the new law to make sure that the regulations have been complied by the billionaires including providing the federal government with the authority to review if estates, trusts, or other legitimate structures are being used to avoid tax liabilities.

Till now, the proposal would place a new burden on the IRS, which authorizes U.S. tax law and has been scooped out from cutting down in budget and hampered by outdated technology.


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