(p. A1) Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.
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(p. A12) “There’s this notion that the wealthy use their money to buy politicians; more accurately, it’s that they can buy policy, and specifically, tax policy,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who served as chief economic adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “That’s why these egregious loopholes exist, and why it’s so hard to close them.”
The Family Office
Each of the top 400 earners took home, on average, about $336 million in 2012, the latest year for which data is available. If the bulk of that money had been paid out as salary or wages, as it is for the typical American, the tax obligations of those wealthy taxpayers could have more than doubled.
Instead, much of their income came from convoluted partnerships and high-end investment funds. Other earnings accrued in opaque family trusts and foreign shell corporations, beyond the reach of the tax authorities.
The well-paid technicians who devise these arrangements toil away at white-shoe law firms and elite investment banks, as well as a variety of obscure boutiques. But at the fulcrum of the strategizing over how to minimize taxes are so-called family offices, the customized wealth management departments of Americans with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in assets.
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The major industry group representing private equity funds spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year lobbying on such issues as “carried interest,” the granddaddy of Wall Street tax loopholes, which makes it possible for fund managers to pay the capital gains rate rather than the higher standard tax rate on a substantial share of their income for running the fund.
For the full story, see:
NOAM SCHEIBER and PATRICIA COHEN. “By Molding Tax System, Wealthiest Save Billions.” The New York Times (Weds., DEC. 30, 2015): A1 & A12.
(Note: bold, and larger font, in original; ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 29, 2015, and has the title “For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions.”)