Elizabeth Warren on Tax Reform

Massachusetts Senator; former head of CFPB; Dem. Presidential Challenger


The wealthy have rigged the tax code: tons of loopholes

Why tax wealth? The answer starts with the astonishing level of inequality in our country. Why is the wealth gap so enormous? Why has it been growing so exponentially? There are multiple reasons, but one that stares us right in the face is that the wealthy have rigged the tax code. For years, tax breaks and tax cuts have been handed to the people at the top. Taxation of capital gains have been scaled back. S-corporations--closely held corporations that generally don't pay income taxes, were created just for people pulling in big bucks. There are tons of loopholes that allow rich people to lower their effective annual income tax liability even more.

The math isn't complicated. Over decades, an unfair tax code will produce a huge wealth gap, and a wealth gap can't be fixed just by cleaning the way income tax is taxed in the future. We urgently need a wealth tax. It would help reduce the impact of several decades of a rigged system and also work as a defense from future rigging.

Source: Persist, by Elizabeth Warren, p.61 , May 4, 2021

FactCheck: "2% wealth tax" is 6% on wealthiest billionaires

Warren referenced her proposed wealth tax twice during the debate, both times calling it a "2-cent wealth tax." It's true that part of her plan includes an annual tax of 2 cents on every dollar of wealth over $50 million, but she didn't mention that her amended plan would call on those with more than $1 billion of wealth to pay triple that amount.

Warren's original plan included the 2% tax on net worth over $50 million and a 3% tax on net worth over $1 billion. But she later introduced a plan to pay for Medicare for All that included increasing the higher threshold tax to 6%.

However, some economists have questioned whether her plan would raise as much as she expects. If implemented in 2021, the taxes would raise between $2.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion over 10 years. That's about $1 trillion to $1.4 trillion less than the Warren campaign's estimate. The wealth tax would also reduce gross domestic product in 2050 by about 1-2%, depending on how the money is spent.

Source: FactCheck.org on 8th Democrat 2020 primary debate , Feb 8, 2020

Your first $50M is free and clear under my wealth tax

WARREN: Today, the 99% in America are on track to pay about 7.2% of their total wealth in taxes. The top 1/10 of 1% that I want to say pay two cents more, they'll pay 3.2% in America. I'm tired of freeloading billionaires. I think it's time that we ask those at the very top to pay more. A two-cent wealth tax is a tax for everybody who has more than $50 million in assets; your first $50 million is free and clear. But your 50 millionth and first dollar, you've got to pitch in 2 cents. Doing a wealth tax is not about punishing anyone. You built something great in this country? Good for you. But you did it using workers all of us helped pay to educate. You did it protected by police and firefighters all of us helped pay the salaries for.

Sen. Cory BOOKER: We all agree that we need to bring in a lot more revenue in this country. We have a real problem with tax loopholes, tax cheats. I don't agree with the wealth tax, but I agree that we need to raise the estate tax.

Source: November Democratic primary debate in Atlanta , Nov 20, 2019

Increase taxes on millionaires & billionaires

She proposed a 2% tax on wealth beyond $50 million and a 3% tax on wealth above $1 billion. Proposed a new 7% tax on companies' profits over $100 million.
Source: Axios.com "What you need to know about 2020" , May 8, 2019

Proposes wealth tax for fortunes over $50 million

I started several months ago about a wealth tax, an ultra-millionaire's tax. It's 2 cents on every dollar of the great fortunes above $50 million. So, your 50 millionth and first dollar, you've got to pay 2 cents, and 2 cents on all of the dollars after that. If we put that 2 cent wealth tax in place on the 75,000 largest fortunes in this country, we can do universal child care & universal college, and still have nearly a trillion dollars left over.
Source: CNN Town Hall 2020: 5 candidates back-to-back , Apr 22, 2019

Large firms should pay 7% tax on profits over $100 million

The failure of America's largest corporations to pay taxes on their profits is a scandal. Warren has proposed straightforwardly to tax profits about $100 million a year at 7% for the largest firms in the country. It's nice to see Warren so clear on the issue: Companies aren't paying tax on what they make, that needs to end, she wants to end it.
Source: Current Affairs magazine, 2019 article series , Apr 16, 2019

Businesses should recognize how US helped them succeed

Jeff Bezos, you had a great idea, you got out there, you worked hard. You have this great fortune. But remember, you built this fortune here in America You used workers that all of us helped pay to educate. You got your goods to market on roads and bridges that all of us helped pay to build. You were protected by firefighters and police officers that all of us helped to pay for. When you make it really big, put a little back in the kitty so that the next kid gets a chance.
Source: NPR Morning Edition, "Election 2020: Opening Arguments" , Mar 15, 2019

Comparison of Trump wealth tax to Warren wealth tax

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wasn't the first major American politician to put the idea of a tax on large fortunes. Trump's plan, as articulated during a 1999 flirtation with a Reform Party presidential bid, differed from Warren's in three important respects:
  1. He wanted the tax to be a one-time levy that would reduce the national debt and therefore reduce interest service payments. Warren's plan would simply levy a smaller tax each year.
  2. He wanted a fairly hefty rate--14.5%. Warren's rate structure is much lower than that.
  3. He set the threshold for his tax lower. While Warren wants to tax fortunes worth more than $50 million, Trump proposed taxing wealth starting at $10 million. This was in 1999; in inflation-adjusted dollars, that's $15 million.
Warren has a progressive rate structure: Assets worth between $50 million and $1 billion would be taxed at 2%, and assets above $1 billion taxed at 3% tax. Trump's tax is flat but starts lower.
Source: Vox.com analysis of 2020 presidential hopefuls , Jan 31, 2019

2% wealth tax on assets over $50M; 3% over $1B

The wealth tax proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren: a 2% wealth tax that Warren would levy on the total assets of individuals worth more than $50 million and 3% on individuals with more than $1 billion. Per a Forbes analysis, this means that Jeff Bezos, whose $137 billion fortune makes him the richest man in the world, would owe the IRS an additional $4.1 billion each year.
Source: Washington Examiner on 2020 Presidential Hopefuls , Jan 29, 2019

Wealth tax: $4.1 billion per year on fortune of $137 billion

Asked about a wealth tax proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the very wealthy former New York City mayor said the idea was probably unconstitutional, definitely counterproductive, and something to be avoided at all costs. Anyone favoring radical redistribution, Bloomberg said, should look south for an example to avoid: "It's called Venezuela" [which currently has a socialist government].

The policy on the table: a 2% wealth tax that Warren would levy on the total assets of individuals worth more than $50 million and 3% on individuals with more than $1 billion. Per a Forbes analysis, this means that Jeff Bezos, whose $137 billion fortune makes him the richest man in the world, would owe the IRS an additional $4.1 billion each year.

Critics might complain that [Bloomberg's comparison] is heavy-handed, as the Warren wealth tax pales in comparison to the wealth redistribution of the Chavez-Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Source: Washington Examiner on 2020 Democratic primary contenders , Jan 29, 2019

Curb inequality: 2% tax on assets over $50M; 3% over $1B

Warren wants to curb spiraling inequality and make the rich pay. Most Americans currently pay property taxes to their local government, a form of a wealth tax. The majority of middle class assets are property. Rich people of course own real estate, but they tend to mostly own shares of stock and other financial assets that largely evade taxation.

Warren's proposal is for a progressive wealth tax: a 2 percent levy on assets more than $50 million, and a 3 percent rate that only kicks in when you have more than $1 billion.

The mere existence of the wealth tax would, on the margin, encourage wealthy individuals to dissipate their fortunes on charitable giving and lavish consumption. Wealth taxes, though once common in developed countries, have gone out of style in recent years. While 12 OECD members had wealth taxes in 1990, just four--France, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland--do today. Warren's proposed rate would be slightly lower than Spain's but higher than the other three.

Source: Vox.com on 2020 Democratic primary contenders , Jan 24, 2019

Making housing affordable by raising estate tax

Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill tackling the issue head on, trying to lower the cost of homes in neighborhoods with greater economic opportunity. The legislation, titled the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, is perhaps the most far-reaching assault on housing segregation since the 1968 Fair Housing Act. It's ambitious, pouring half a trillion dollars over 10 years into affordable-housing programs, and funded by raising the estate tax to Bush-era levels.
Source: The Atlantic, "Housing Crisis," on 2020 Democratic primary , Sep 25, 2018

Reagan tax cuts reduces revenue and increase national debt

Tax cuts were a key ingredient in the magic trickle-down formula. And in 1981, President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office and became the chief wizard. Picture Reagan and a bunch of other old guys waving magic wands. With each wave of the wand, corporations (and millionaires) could keep more of their money, and then--here come the magic part--everyone else would be richer, too!

True, there were a few Debbie Downers raining on the magical parade. Reagan's own vice president, George H. W. Bush, once labeled it "voodoo economics." Others worried that those tax cuts wouldn't make anyone richer except the rich people who pocketed more money.

Eventually, study after careful study showed that Reagan's tax cuts did exactly what a lot of people had expected they would: they reduced government revenues and increased the national debt. But Reagan and all his economic advisers kept selling their wacky idea, and eventually tax cuts became the new religion.

Source: This Fight is Our Fight, by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, p.113-4 , Apr 18, 2017

Demand the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes

We will make this economy work for everyone--not just for the top 10%, but for everyone. This isn't about "messaging." It's about understanding at a deep-down level what most of America lives every day: This government doesn't work for them. This government works for the rich and the powerful, and it is leaving everyone else behind.

The question is simple: How do we build and America that works for all of us? The answer is right in front of us: We built it once, and we can build it again. This is what big majorities of Americans--Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and vegetarians--believe.

And how do we pay for all those things? Again, a pretty solid majority of America agrees: start by raising taxes for those at the top. Currently, 61% of us believe that the wealthiest Americans don't pay their fair share in taxes, and 63% favor eliminating tax deductions and loopholes for the very rich.

Source: This Fight is Our Fight, by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, p.251-6 , Apr 18, 2017

Lots of wealth in America but it stays at the top

Americans bust their tails, but wages stay flat. The basic costs of making it keep going up. Young people are getting crushed by student loans. Working people are in debt. Seniors can't stretch a Social Security check to cover the basics. America isn't going broke. The stock market is breaking records. Corporate profits are at all-time highs. CEOs make tens of millions of dollars. There's lots of wealth in America, but it isn't trickling down to hard-working families like yours.

Washington works great for those at the top. When giant companies wanted more tax loopholes, Washington got it done. When huge energy companies wanted to tear up our environment, Washington got it done. When enormous Wall Street banks wanted new regulatory loopholes, Washington got it done. No gridlock there! But try to do something, anything, for working people, and you'll have a fight on your hands.

Source: Speech at 2016 Democratic National Convention , Jul 26, 2016

Who pays? Everyone, or just the little guys?

Some business owners were ready to support me. But others would say something like "I usually vote Republican because Republicans are pro-business."

And I'd always get straight to the point: "Do you worry about how much you pay in taxes?"


"So how much money do you have stashed away in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands? How much intellectual property have you transferred to a foreign tax haven? How much of your income is shielded with depletion allowances?"

You can guess the response: None. None. None. Then I would talk with these business owners about the ongoing battle over tax policy in America. A lot of it is couched in "big government vs. little government" or "pro-business vs. anti-business." But I think most of that is a deliberate distraction so people don't see the real battle. The critical question is: Who pays? Does everyone pay, or just the little guys?

Source: A Fighting Chance, by Elizabeth Warren, p.247 , Apr 22, 2014

Stop protecting loopholes for millionaires

Warren pointed to a series of Brown votes in the Senate that she said show he sided with big oil companies and held tax cuts for the middle class hostage to give tax cuts to millionaires. "Sen. Brown is out there protecting every loophole," she said.

Brown responded that Warren supports higher taxes, and also said putting more financial pressure on oil companies could raise prices at the pump. "I am on the taxpayer's side," he said, noting that it's now costing him $70 to fill up his pick-up truck.

Source: North Adams Transcript on 2012 Mass. Senate debate , Sep 21, 2012

End tax breaks to the already-rich and already-powerful

Now is the time to rebuild America's middle class. Instead of giving tax breaks to the already-rich and already-powerful, to the corporations and CEOs who have already made it, it's time America recognized the working people and small businesses who are still trying to build a future.

Our self-employed and small businesses, and the community banks that fund them, are drowning in complicated regulations. Long, complex rules create loopholes that the big companies can take advantage of, but they leave little guys out in the cold. We need rules that are written with small businesses in mind. We need straightforward rules that any small business can deal with, like the short and streamlined mortgage form the consumer agency is putting into law.

Source: 2012 Senate campaign website, elizabethwarren.com,"Issues" , Jan 18, 2012

Supports increasing tax rates.

Warren supports the CC Voters Guide question on tax rates

Christian Coalition publishes a number of special voter educational materials including the Christian Coalition Voter Guides, which provide voters with critical information about where candidates stand on important faith and family issues. The Christian Coalition Voters Guide summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: "Increasing federal income tax rates"

Source: Christian Coalition Voter Guide 12-CC-q11a on Oct 31, 2012

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Page last updated: Aug 19, 2021