The Tesla owner tweeted to his 62 million followers on Sunday, asking if they wanted him to sell 10 per cent of his stock, worth around $21bn, in Tesla. He wrote: “Much is made lately of unrealised gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock. Do you support this?”
As many as 3,519,252 votes were cast, with 57.9 per cent voting in favour of him selling his stock, and 42.1 per cent saying no. When a user asked Mr Musk whether the poll went the way he wanted it to, the billionaire replied that he had been “prepared to accept either outcome”.
The senator from Oregon quoted the poll and said: “Whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll.”
Mr Wyden, who also chairs the senate finance committee, added: “It’s time for the billionaires’ income tax.”
In October, Mr Wyden proposed an updated version of the Billionaires Income Tax, which mandates that “billionaires pay tax every year, just like other Americans”.
“There are two tax codes in America. The first is mandatory for workers who pay taxes out of every paycheck,” Mr Wyden had said. “The second is voluntary for billionaires who defer paying taxes for years, if not indefinitely.”
He added: “Two tax codes allow billionaires to use largely untaxed income from wealth to build more wealth while working families struggle to balance the mortgage against groceries, and utilities against saving for the future. That’s why it’s time for a Billionaires Income Tax.”
“No working person in America thinks it’s right that they pay their taxes and billionaires don’t,” he had added.
If passed, the Billionaires Income Tax would apply to those taxpayers who have more than $1bn in assets or more than $100m in income for three consecutive years, according to the US Senate Committee on Finance.
The founder of Tesla and SpaceX has seen his fortune surge by more than $117bn so far in 2021. Much of the growth in Mr Musk’s personal wealth is due to a large increase in the stock price of his companies.
According to inequality.org, in a single day in the last week of October, Mr Musk “added 36$bn to his enormous personal fortune — a sum that the typical American worker would have to labour about 800,000 years to match.” It also notes that during the pandemic, Mr Musk saw his wealth increase by $150bn, a gain of over 600 per cent.
In August, ProPublica revealed that billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk went several years paying zero federal income tax.
According to a July report by Pew Research Centre, roughly three in ten Americans — 29 per cent — said that billionaires were a “bad thing for the country.” In January 2020, that number was 23 per cent. And the share of people who think that billionaires are a good thing for the country has gone down from 19 per cent to just 15 per cent.
Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator who opposes the Billionaires Income Tax, had said on 27 October that everybody in US who had been blessed and prospered, “should pay a patriotic tax”.
“If you’re to the point where you can use all of the tax forms to your advantage, and you end up with a zero tax liability but have had a very, very good life and have had a lot of opportunities, there should be a 15% patriotic tax,” he had said.
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