Economist Gabriel Zucman’s analysis reveals that for the first time, U.S. billionaires have a lower effective tax rate than working-class Americans, sparking a renewed debate on wealth tax.

By Alexandra Jacobo, Nation of Change

Economist Gabriel Zucman’s analysis reveals a troubling milestone: U.S. billionaires now pay a lower effective tax rate than working-class Americans, marking the first time this disparity has been recorded. This revelation, published in The New York Times, highlights the growing chasm between the ultra-rich and the average worker, sparking renewed calls for comprehensive tax reform.

tax the rich sign at protest

Zucman’s research illustrates a historical shift in tax burdens. For the first time, America’s wealthiest individuals pay a lower effective tax rate than the working class. In 2018, the average tax rate for billionaires was 23%, while working-class Americans paid an average of 24%. This reversal is attributed to the unique tax mechanisms that billionaires employ to minimize their taxable income, predominantly through stock holdings and tax-free loans.

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk exemplify this phenomenon. Although both report modest salaries, they leverage their vast wealth in company stock to access loans that fund acquisitions and luxury purchases. By borrowing against these assets, they generate significant cash flow without triggering taxable events, thereby keeping their effective tax rates extremely low.

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