The Guardian has reported that Warren Buffett, the United States’ second-richest man, has again complained that he pays a lower rate of tax than any of his staff – including his receptionist. He has said:
The taxation system has tilted towards the rich and away from the middle class in the last 10 years. It’s dramatic; I don’t think it’s appreciated and I think it should be addressed.
Apparently Mr Buffett undertook an informal survey of 15 of his 18 office staff at his Berkshire Hathaway empire. The billionaire said he was paying 17.7% payroll and income tax, compared with an average in the office of 32.9%. He said:
There wasn’t anyone in the office, from the receptionist up, who paid as low a tax rate and I have no tax planning; I don’t have an accountant or use tax shelters. I just follow what the US Congress tells me to do.
Who does he blame? Hedge fund managers are one group. He said:
Hedge fund operators have spent a record amount lobbying in the last few months – they give money to the political campaigns.
And what happened? Congress backed off changing their taxes. Bribery pays, in other words.
But he then asked a much more pertinent question:
Who represents the cleaning lady?
To that I have an answer – unions should be. It’s why I’m pleased to be working with the TUC in the UK on tax issues right now. Because tax is at the centre of the social justice debate. And it always will be.