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Millionaires' warning as virus crisis reaches boiling point

·3-min read
Millionaires’ warning as virus crisis reaches boiling point. Source: Getty
Millionaires’ warning as virus crisis reaches boiling point. Source: Getty

Disney heiress Abigail Disney and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield are among a growing list of millionaires signing a petition for higher taxes.

“Today, we, the undersigned millionaires, ask our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently,” the petition states.

“We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door. But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis.”

The signatories urged government leaders to “raise the funds the nation needs and spend them fairly”, but it came with a hefty warning.

“Our interconnectedness has never been more clear. We must rebalance our world before it is too late. There will not be another chance to get this right.”

The petition follows the Billionaire Bonanza report by the Institute for Policy Studies, which found while tens of millions of Americans were losing their jobs during the pandemic, US billionaires’ wealth grew a whopping 10 per cent in April.

In fact, eight billionaires saw their net worth surge by over US$1 billion, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla chief Elon Musk and Zoom founder Eric Yuan.

Co-author of the report Chuck Collins said billionaires’ tax obligations were to blame.

“If this inequality isn’t treated with both short and long-term tax reforms and oversight, America’s ‘pre-existing condition’ of extreme inequality could overwhelm not only our economy, but our democracy itself,” he said.

The ‘Millionaires for Humanity’ petition comes nearly six months after more than 100 billionaires and millionaires penned an open letter asking to pay more in taxes.

The letter, which was published ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, sounded the same alarm: “We urge you to step forward now – before it’s too late – to demand higher and fairer taxes on millionaires and billionaires within your own countries and to help prevent individual and corporate tax avoidance and evasion through international tax reform efforts.”

That letter followed a previous call in 2019, where 19 of America’s richest co-signed an open letter that was published in the New York Times asking the 2020 US presidential candidates to support a wealth tax.

Last year, billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates suggested increasing the capital gains tax would be one way of taxing the rich more.

But not every rich-lister is keen on the idea: according to billionaire entrepreneur Michael Rubin, wealth taxes would have the “opposite effect of what you want to happen”.

“I'm not saying that because I'm a successful guy,” Rubin, who is worth $2.9 billion, said in an interview earlier this year.

“I'm saying that because to me, what makes America great is this is a true land for the entrepreneur. You can come here and you can build your business.”

Rubin shot down former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax plans, saying it could discourage entrepreneurs from choosing America as their start-up base.

“I think the effect of having a net worth tax would take people that are starting companies and say, I'm not going to start them in America, but go somewhere else, because it's such a negative impact,” he said.

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Catch up on the Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club.

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