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Billionaire Wars

Buffett to Murdoch: I'll show you mine if you show me yours

What is he talking about? Tax returns, of course.

INVESTMENT TYCOON WARREN Buffett has told fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch that he will publish details of his tax returns if the media mogul does the same.

Buffett made the remarks following an editorial in Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal which called on the Berkshire Hathaway CEO to disclose his tax payments, reports CNNMoney.

The piece, entitled Mr. Buffett’s Tax Secrets, said the least America’s second richest man could do is show the country why he pays “so little” tax.

Buffett has called for higher taxes on wealthier US citizens and President Barack Obama has used his anecdote that he pays a lower rate of tax that his secretary to push through tax reforms.

More conservative Americans – including the writer of the WSJ piece – have taken issue with his stance on the tax issue.

“No doubt the millions of Americans who could end up paying more because of this claim would love to see the details,” says the WSJ.

However, Buffett has made a clever retort – aimed at the man in charge.

Bypassing the author of the article, Buffett told CNNMoney that he was willing to release his tax returns as long as WSJ boss Rupert Murdoch did the same.

I think it might be a terrific idea if they would just ask their boss, Rupert Murdoch, and he and I will meet at Fortune, and we’ll both give you our tax returns and you can publish them.

I’m ready tomorrow morning, he added during the interview at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.

The Buffett Rule

The billionaire has come up with a guideline which would ensure that discrepancies, such as him paying less tax than his secretary, will not happen. It would apply to all those US citizens who earn more than US$1 million.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times in August, Buffett outlines his idea, stating that it was time to stop coddling the rich. He wrote:

Our leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

In the newspaper, Buffett revealed he paid about US$6.9 million in taxes last year. That equates to a rate of just 17.4 per cent of his taxable income.

The WSJ accused the investor of “forcefully injecting himself” into US political debate with the eponymous rule. The authors also called for details of Berkshire Hathaway’s tax returns:

We wouldn’t want to violate their individual privacy, but since Mr. Buffett is using them to make a political point, perhaps he’d be willing to disclose the most important lines on their returns without disclosing their names. This too would be instructive.

If Mr. Buffett’s anecdote is going to be the main political basis for rewriting the US tax code, Americans have every right to know the basis for the anecdote.

Rupert Murdoch – although worth US$7.4 billion according to Forbes’ rich list – is far less wealthy that the so-called ‘Sage of Omaha’ whose net worth is US$39 billion.

For more information, see a transcript of Buffett’s interview with CNNMoney>

For the original editorial piece in the WSJ, follow this link (pay wall)>

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