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A picture illustration of $100 bank notes.
A picture illustration of $100 bank notes.Yuriko Nakao / Reuters file

Report shows richest Americans paying almost nothing in income taxes

Dozens of the leading corporations didn't pay any federal income taxes last year. Plenty of billionaires are also paying almost nothing.


We learned in April that dozens of the nation's largest corporations didn't pay any federal income taxes on more than $40 billion in profits last year. In fact, thanks in part to regressive tax policies, many of these private-sector giants received federal rebates, creating negative tax rates.

The problem, of course, isn't limited to Big Business. NBC News reported overnight:

The 25 richest Americans paid little to no federal income taxes, according to a report released Tuesday by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica.... The report does not detail any illegality by the people whose tax documents it reviewed, who include many of the richest people in the U.S., such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

Ordinarily, the top-line takeaway from any news report is the news itself, but in this instance, it's a bit more complicated.

ProPublica has now shined a light on "secret IRS files" and "never-before-seen" tax records, which has sparked all kinds of interest into how the independent, non-profit news outlet acquired these materials in the first place. If there was a leak, as seems likely given the circumstances, it's among the most dramatic leaks of its kind in recent memory.

Not surprisingly, the Internal Revenue Service has already launched an investigation, the results of which are likely to be highly consequential.

But there's also a political context to this that should, theoretically, matter.

President Biden ran on a platform of raising taxes on the wealthy and big corporations, and he pushed the idea in part because he recognized its popularity. Once in office, Biden unveiled ambitious domestic priorities, to be financed in large part by rolling back Trump-era tax breaks -- and polls showed strong public support for the Democrat's proposals.

It's against this backdrop that Republicans are saying ... they don't care.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who's taking a leading role in infrastructure talks, told reporters this morning that Republicans will not agree to tax increases to pay for the domestic investments. "We're not raising taxes," the Republican declared. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) made similar comments yesterday, suggesting GOP lawmakers are not prepared to accept any proposal that raises taxes on anyone, at any time, by any amount.

At the same time, Senate Republicans are also opposed to Biden's efforts to strengthen the IRS, despite the fact that the president's plan simply focuses on enforcing the tax laws already on the books.

While political debates continue about the White House's plans, quite a few American families are learning that they're paying a greater share of their income in federal taxes than FedEx and Jeff Bezos. They're also learning which party wants to keep it that way.