Elizabeth Warren helps out 'confused' billionaires with new tax calculator

Luke O'Neil
Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters

Billionaires seem to be nervous about the prospect of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination for president. On Thursday, the former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the door to a possible 2020 run – which would make him the second billionaire, alongside Tom Steyer, to finance a run for the White House. A day earlier, Bill Gates expressed disdain for Warren’s proposed wealth tax.

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“I’ve paid over $10bn in taxes,” Gates said at the New York Times’s Dealbook conference on Wednesday. “I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to pay $20bn, it’s fine. But when you say I should pay $100bn, OK, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over.”

Gates, whose net worth is an estimated $107bn, would have a mere $7bn to survive off of under that scenario.

But as the Warren campaign was quick to point out, he wouldn’t be forced to pay anywhere near that much. To illustrate the point, Warren shared a tool on her site called A Calculator for Billionaires to help Gates, Bloomberg and other wealth hoarders work out how much they’ll pay.

“Some billionaires seem confused about how much they would pay under Elizabeth’s Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” the site explains. “Don’t worry, now we have a calculator for that too.”

The page first asks visitors if they are a billionaire or not. A yes answer offers a prompt to enter your net worth, with quick links available for Bloomberg, Gates or Leon Cooperman, the hedge-fund billionaire who recently criticized Warren’s tax proposals as “idiocy” and “bull”.

Clicking through as Gates brings an exciting result. “Wow! You’ve got a lot of money,” it reads. “Your wealth puts you in the top 0.0002% of Americans. Now you have the opportunity to invest some of it back into our society so everyone has a chance to succeed.”

Gates would pay $6.379bn in tax next year, according to the calculator. Bloomberg would pay $3.079bn.

Overall, Warren’s tax would install a 2% rate on a net worth of $50m to $1bn, and 6% for those who earn more than $1bn.

“Good news – you’ll still be extraordinarily rich!” the calculator says. “And if history is any guide, if you do nothing other than invest your wealth in the stock market, it’s likely that your wealth will continue to grow.”