This story was originally published by ProPublica.
In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.
Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.
ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.
Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year.
Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, amassing little wealth and paying the federal government a percentage of their income that rises if they earn more. In recent years, the median American household earned about $70,000 annually and paid 14% in federal taxes. The highest income tax rate, 37%, kicked in this year, for couples, on earnings above $628,300.
The confidential tax records obtained by ProPublica show that the ultrarich effectively sidestep this system.
Alabama’s freshman lawmakers in Washington are stepping into committee roles — and, in one case, into a brand new committee — as most of the state’s veteran lawmakers continue life in the minority party or experience it for the first time in years.
On the Senate side, Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby has moved from chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee to vice chairman, with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont assuming the chair.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Alabama’s new senator, who has moved into office with a high and controversial profile, has secured spots on the Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Veteran’s Affairs committees.
Among Alabama’s seven House members and two senators, only Rep. Terri Sewell of Birmingham is in the majority party,
Gov. Kay Ivey visited parts of Alabama’s coast Friday to survey damage from Hurricane Sally, which struck the coast on Wednesday as a Category 2 storm.
“What I’ve seen this morning in the fly over – it’s really, really bad,” Ivey said. “I think that I only saw two piers that were still standing. The rest are just sticks in the water.” Read more.
The Alabama Department of Transportation is considering allowing law enforcement agencies access to ALDOT rights-of-way and structures to install license plate readers and other surveillance equipment.
At least one Alabama lawmaker said legislation may be needed to regulate the use of the devices and information they collect.
Tony Harris, government relations manager for ALDOT, told Alabama Daily News the proposed rules are a result of recent requests from multiple police agencies.
Alabama’s 2020 legislative session begins Tuesday in Montgomery, where the state’s prison crisis and another effort to let Alabamians vote on a lottery promise to be must-watch issues. There’s also the state’s budgets, both with more money and more demands in 2021, and possible raises for state employees and teachers. Increased mental health services, which most agree haven’t been properly addressed in years, and legalizing medical marijuana are also on the table.
Gov. Kay Ivey will give her third State of the State speech Tuesday evening. Read more about some of the issues expected to be debated.
The Jefferson County Commission will decide Thursday whether persons and businesses doing business with the county will have to pay more for the convenience of using credit cards when paying bills at the county’s Revenue Department. The department sought a resolution during today’s committee meeting to add 1% to a transaction amount with a minimum of $1.95 for over-the-counter electronic payments. Read more.
The Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority recently rejected a proposed budget that would have increased bus fares from $1.25 to $1.50. It would’ve also cut some bus service. Executive Director Frank Martin recently signed a contract to lead the transit authority. Some say he has a tough road ahead. The bus system is plagued with problems around efficiency and revenue. Martin, in part, blames the transit board, saying they’ve been unwilling to compromise. He tells WBHM’s Janae Pierre riders aren’t paying enough into the system, and neither is the city of Birmingham.