Friday, October 14, 2011

Buffett reveals income to prod others to do same

WASHINGTON: Mr Warren Buffett, the world's third-richest man, has revealed exactly how much money he made last year: US$62,855,038 (S$80,636,728).

The billionaire investor disclosed his income in a letter he wrote on Tuesday to Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Republican.

In that letter, Mr Buffett challenged other wealthy Americans, including News Corp magnate Rupert Murdoch, to lay bare their income and tax details.

Mr Buffet specified that his adjusted gross income, which excludes some types of income and expenses, was US$62,855,038.

His taxable income, which subtracts exemptions and itemised deductions, was US$39,814,784, he wrote. Such deductions can include donations to charity, business travel, and state and local taxes.

In a New York Times opinion piece this summer, Mr Buffett revealed he paid US$6,938,744 in federal taxes last year, or 17.4 per cent of his taxable income.

That was a far lower rate than what many Americans, including his own secretary, pay, Mr Buffett told Mr Huelskamp.

He said he reckoned that most senators and representatives pay more than 30 per cent of their incomes in taxes, 'just like all of the people in our office, except for me'.

President Barack Obama has used Mr Buffett as an emblem in his fight to clamp higher taxes on the wealthy, a drive that Republicans oppose.

Mr Buffett, who built a US$50 billion fortune on investments through his Berkshire Hathaway company, was answering Mr Huelskamp's call to prove his low tax claims by publishing his complete tax forms.

Mr Buffett fended off that, saying it would prove little, by itself.

'What would be useful would be to get more of the ultra-rich to publish their returns,' Mr Buffett wrote.

'If you could get other ultra-rich Americans to publish their returns along with mine, that would be very useful to the tax dialogue and intelligent reform,' he said.

'Clearly, many of the ultra-rich are paying even lower percentages than I do to the federal government, and obtaining their returns should be useful to our legislators in crafting an equitable tax code.'

He included in his call specifically 'Rupert Murdoch, one of my ultra-rich colleagues', after Mr Murdoch's Wall Street Journal last week blasted Mr Buffett's advocacy of higher taxes for the wealthy and said he should release his tax forms.