Opinion | Ought to America's richest individuals pay a wealth tax?

Opinion | Should America's richest people pay a wealth tax?

About the editor:

To "Richest in U.S. Pay All but Nil in Income Tax "(front page, June 9th) and" The Real Tax Scandal Is What’s Legal "by Binyamin Appelbaum (Opinion Essay, June 9th):

The report by the news organization ProPublica, which shows that the country's richest executives paid only a tiny fraction of their wealth in federal income taxes, is astounding confirmation that the United States' tax system has been rigged for a tiny number of ultra-rich individuals. That such an unfair system exists in the United States today undermines trust and is ultimately a threat to democracy.

The I.R.S. The data revealed by the report should increase the urgency of talks about introducing a property tax so that these individuals will pay their fair share to the land that has made so much possible for them.

Cody Lyon

About the editor:

The ProPublica report you described is misleading. The authors write that the tax information they somehow got from the I.R.S. shows that a group of wealthy people pays little income tax compared to the increase in the value of their wealth. But of the four people for whom they gave detailed information, three paid income taxes between 20 and 30 percent of their income – hardly a negligible amount. And the fourth, Michael Bloomberg, paid less due to large charitable donations and a foreign income tax credit (required to avoid double taxation on the same income).

Does ProPublica really want people to pay tax on their capital gains even though the valued assets have not been sold? There are good administrative reasons not to tax assets other than income. For example, many wealthy people have assets (like houses in other countries, rare works of art) that would be extremely difficult to value each year. The I.R.S. would have an impossible time to test these returns.

There are many corrections to tax laws to increase taxes paid by the rich, but ProPublica's approach is not the right one.

Peter L. Faber
new York
The author is a retired tax attorney and former tax chairman of the American Bar Association.

About the editor:

I have always signed the tax return of the distinguished judge Scholar Hand: “Everyone can arrange his affairs so that his taxes are as low as possible; he is not obliged to choose the pattern that the treasury pays best. There isn't even a patriotic duty to raise taxes. "

Regardless of that sentiment, I confess a sense of disgust after learning that I – and millions of other Americans – have paid a higher tax rate than multibillionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, and others. How can that make sense? Congress, are you listening? It is no longer time to take action.

Marc Chafetz

About the editor:

The ProPublica article revealed nothing new about tax law. As a rule, the tax code does not tax any investment profit up to the point of sale. And as the article itself admits, this may even be unconstitutional. There are certainly arguments that this is a loophole that is being over-used by the wealthy and that should be closed. But is ProPublica authorized to disclose private information that may have been illegally obtained?

While disclosure of sensitive information can certainly be justified when the public interest so requires, there has been nothing new in history to justify this questionable invasion of privacy. The authors could have simply pointed out that Michael Bloomberg, like all investors, does not have to pay tax on the increase in the value of the investment in his company – even though he has earned billions. However, it is wrong to use a well-known and much criticized loophole as an excuse to justify the publication of enticing information that may have been illegally obtained.

Mitchell M. Goose
Hempstead, New York
The author is a professor at the Hofstra University Faculty of Law and teaches tax courses.

About the editor:

For "A Teenage Rite Elves and Perseveres" (front and national pages, June 6):

A big thank you for highlighting the creativity and perseverance of young people!

Trust me – the seemingly endless cycle from bed to zoom to bed this school year is getting old after a while. We clearly grow up at odd times, but stories like this really give people like me an optimistic outlook on our final years in high school.

Although, to be honest, I still wouldn't mind a regular prom.

Andrew Kim
Novi, me.

About the editor:

I was deeply annoyed by the June 6 cover caption: "The 2021 prom season has proven that some rites of passage for teenagers are adaptable, durable, and pandemic-proof."

Pandemic safe? Barely.

In 2020, when the pandemic was raging and closings were rampant, most high school graduates, including my own daughter, had no proms at all. Such rites of passage were withheld from these teenagers and they were even forced to attend virtual graduation ceremonies.

Obviously, the situation is very different today – and cheaper for the happy teenagers who could gather and celebrate their senior year of high school with a costume party.

I haven't quite gotten over last year's disappointments. And I'm just a parent. I can only imagine how my daughter and her classmates feel as they watch the world open and be reminded of what they missed.

Mary Rayis
Longboat Key, Florida.