How sports owners pay less taxes than athletes

ProPublica continues their analysis of an anonymous dump of tax records, this time with a focus on billionaire sports owners:

The law favors people who are rich because they own things over people who are rich because they make a high income from their work. Wages — the main source of income for most people, including athletes — are taxed at the highest rates of all, topping out at a marginal rate of 37% plus an extra 3.8% for Medicare. The government takes a smaller share of money made from, say, selling a stock. That’s not to mention the benefits available to people who own businesses, such as the paper losses created by buying a sports team.

Easy solution: We’ll all just buy a sports team.

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How the ultrarich use a Roth IRA to get more rich

ProPublica continues their analysis of an anonymous IRS tax records dump. In their most recent, they look at how Peter Thiel uses a Roth IRA to avoid taxes on billions.

In the second half of the piece, a time series chart showing the growth of Thiel’s account versus a standard maxed out account. The data progresses as you scroll, which moves the article forward, until it fills the whole window. Nice.

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Billionaire tax rates

ProPublica anonymously obtained billionaires’ tax returns. Combining the data with Forbes’ billionaire wealth estimates, ProPublica calculated a “true tax rate” for America’s 25 richest people:

The results are stark. According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.

It’s a completely different picture for middle-class Americans, for example, wage earners in their early 40s who have amassed a typical amount of wealth for people their age. From 2014 to 2018, such households saw their net worth expand by about $65,000 after taxes on average, mostly due to the rise in value of their homes. But because the vast bulk of their earnings were salaries, their tax bills were almost as much, nearly $62,000, over that five-year period.

As you might guess, a lot of the disparity has to do with wealth held in unrealized capital gains. The other part is how the ultrawealthy still pay for everything when most of their money is in investments and how that factors into deductions.

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Timeline of the President’s taxes

The New York Times got a hold of the President’s tax records for the past two decades. They charted the reported gains and losses.

It starts with an overview stacked area chart and then scrolls through the details and peculiarities. Very peculiar.

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Animated line chart to show the rich paying less taxes

David Leonhardt, for The New York Times, discusses the relatively low tax rates for the country’s 400 wealthiest households. The accompanying animated line chart by Stuart A. Thompson shows how the rates have been dropping over the years, which are now “below the rates for almost everyone else.” Oh.

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Where the IRS most likely audits

Using estimates from a study on regional bias in tax audits, ProPublica mapped the likelihood of getting audited by the IRS. They then turn their attention to Humphreys County, Mississippi:

In a baffling twist of logic, the intense IRS focus on Humphreys County is actually because so many of its taxpayers are poor. More than half of the county’s taxpayers claim the earned income tax credit, a program designed to help boost low-income workers out of poverty. As we reported last year, the IRS audits EITC recipients at higher rates than all but the richest Americans, a response to pressure from congressional Republicans to root out incorrect payments of the credit.

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Tax changes for different groups

There’s less than a month until taxes are due. It’s the most wonderful time of year, isn’t it? As you probably know, there are some changes in deductions, limits, and refund amounts this year, but who the changes affect depends on many variables. For Bloomberg, Ben Steverman and Marie Patino, provide an easier-to-follow breakdown of common groups and variables, how the groups’ total taxes differ from last year, and how they contrast against each other.

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Tax calculator that considers where you live

Here’s a different look at tax cuts and increases from Reuben Fischer-Baum for The Washington Post. As Fischer-Baum points out, keep in mind that these are just estimates and they calculations vary:

Analyses that use data from real taxpayers as their starting point – like the calculator put together by the New York Times – produce lower estimates. Other calculators like the one put together by the Wall Street Journal produce similar results to ours. For example, a household in D.C. filing jointly with two kids under 17, earning a total of $150,000 and itemizing $20,000 gets a tax cut of $3,796 in our analysis. Roughly equivalent inputs to the New York Times calculator produces an estimated range of a $1,020 to $3,280 cut, while the Wall Street Journal calculator – which is based on the less generous House bill – produces a cut of $3,230.

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How your taxes will change

I’m pretty sure this is all that most people want to know. The Upshot provides a tax calculator that considers the Republican tax bill and the variation of taxes between households that earn similar incomes. Punch in some information like income range and marital status, and you get a range of tax cuts or increases for households similar to yours.

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Middle-class tax cuts and increases from Senate bill

A lot of tax debate centers around the “average” American family, with focus on both tax cuts and increases for what seems like the same groups of people. The difficulty in these arguments is that there’s a ton of variation within the same income brackets because of the various factors to consider in tax calculations.

Quoctrung Bui and Ben Casselman, reporting for The Upshot, explain with 25,000 example households plotted by the tax delta and income.

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