Twitter criticized for allowing sharing of leaked IRS records after BLOCKING Hunter Biden laptop story
Twitter is drawing backlash over its apparent inconsistencies as it releases an article detailing billionaires’ secret tax records after censoring articles about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
ProPublica declined to disclose how it obtained tax information published Tuesday, saying only that it had obtained the IRS data in “raw form” from a party that did not identify it.
In October, Twitter blocked users from sharing a New York Post article revealing malicious information from Hunter’s laptop, which had been abandoned at a repair shop.
The social media site said at the time that the article violated policies against publishing private information, as well as the ban on sharing hacked material.
Critics lashed out at the apparent hypocrisy, with some even speculating that ProPublica chose not to delve into the finances of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to avoid a ban from the social media giants.
Twitter Takes Backlash for Allowing Article Describing Secret Tax Information of Billionaires to Be Distributed Freely After Censoring Negative Articles About Hunter Biden’s Laptop
“So on what basis should BigTech have censored the NYPost story on Hunter Biden’s emails, but allowed free sharing of the ProPublica tax report?” tweeted Andy Grewal, a law professor at the University of Iowa.
“I don’t think either should be censored… I just wonder what sets BigTech apart,” he added.
The wealth of records published by ProPublica showed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid no income taxes in 2007 and 2011, while Tesla boss Elon Musk’s income taxes hit zero in 2018.
Investor George Soros went three straight years — between 2016 and 2018 — without paying federal income taxes, according to the data.
However, the classified tax records did not reveal any government corruption or illegal activity, and served primarily to illustrate how the tax code works — namely that capital gains are not taxed until the shares are sold.
“Many will question the ethics of publishing such private information. We do this – very selectively and carefully – because we believe it serves the public good in fundamental ways, allowing readers to see patterns that have been hidden until now,” explains ProPublica.
HOW CAN THE SUPER RICH PAY LOWER TAXES?
Many billionaires are able to lower their federal tax bills using legal tax strategies.
Among the ways they can lower tax bills are:
Make large donations to charities
The rich can lower tax bills through the use of charitable donations.
They can deduct up to 60 percent of the adjusted gross income with donations.
Investing in stocks to avoid wage income
The rich can cut taxes by avoiding wage income, which can be taxed up to 37 percent.
They can instead take advantage of investment income, which is often taxed at 20 percent.
Paying yourself lower salaries
If the mega-rich pay themselves a lower salary, they can take a higher portion of the income as dividends.
The lower salary is then taxed at the normal rate. Dividends are often taxed the same as the capital gains rate, which is between 15 and 20 percent.
Another option is to opt for a portion of their compensation in their company stock options. Shares are generally only taxed when the options are exercised.
Some critics accused ProPublica of publishing the report to advance an ideological agenda, possibly using the information to rally support for democratic tax policy.
ProPublica itself noted that the report comes at a “critical moment” politically, pointing to President Biden’s desire to raise taxes on the rich.
“This is really seedy,” Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn noted in an interview with Fox News. “It’s also a crime to leak or hack confidential information, and to do it for political purposes is really slimy.”
“It is not an investigative piece to expose illegal activity or corruption in government, but rather uses illegally leaked private information of citizens to make ideological and political points,” tweeted journalist Jeryl Beier.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig revealed hours later during an already-scheduled Senate Finance Committee hearing that authorities were investigating the leaking of the tax data.
“We’ve handed it over to the right researchers, both externally and internally,” Rettig said.
The Treasury Department said multiple agencies were investigating, including the FBI, DC’s US Attorney’s Office and the Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General.
“Unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information is illegal,” said a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department.
In reviewing the tax data, ProPublica calculated what it called a “true tax rate” for the billionaires by comparing how much tax they paid annually from 2014 to 2018 to how much Forbes estimated their wealth had grown over that same period.
This problem with the approach is that most billionaires have very little income and most of their wealth is in the huge stocks they own.
The IRS taxes both income and capital gains from stock valuation, but does not account for gains or losses on stocks until the assets are sold. Capital gains tax rates are also generally lower than income tax rates.
“I’m not sure it was worth whoever leaked this to go to jail especially to reveal that you don’t pay capital gains tax on stocks until you sell them,” tweeted journalist James Surowiecki of the ProPublica article.
Billionaire Carl Icahn told ProPublica that his adjusted gross income is misleading because his interest rates on his loans are higher.
“I wasn’t making any money because, unfortunately for me, my interest was higher than my entire adjusted income,” he said.
Icahn hit back at questions about whether he thought it was inappropriate that he hadn’t paid federal income taxes for several years.
“There’s a reason it’s called income tax,” he said. “The reason is if, if you’re a poor person, a rich person, if you’re Apple – if you have no income, you don’t pay taxes.
‘Do you think a rich person should pay taxes anyway? I don’t think it’s relevant. How can you ask me that question?’