US economy

US millionaires support Biden’s plan to tax super-wealthy, poll shows

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US millionaires have signalled their support for Joe Biden’s push to make the wealthiest Americans pay more tax, in a sign that the president’s plan to impose bigger levies on extreme wealth is playing well with the country’s upper-middle class.

A YouGov poll of Americans with assets other than their home worth more than $1mn showed that a majority supported a more progressive US tax system, one of the tenets of Biden’s economic strategy for re-election in November.

Almost 60 per cent of the 800 respondents said they would back marginal rates on income tax above $100mn that were higher than the current top rate of 37 per cent.

The poll, commissioned by Patriotic Millionaires, a group of high-net worth Americans and businesses concerned about rising levels of inequality in the world’s largest economy, found more than 60 per cent of those surveyed viewed rapidly expanding inequality as a threat to democracy.

Ninety-one per cent agreed the concentration of extreme wealth allowed some of their fellow citizens to buy political influence.

More than three-quarters thought the wealthy had access to loopholes and strategies unavailable to average taxpayers to avoid declaring income or paying a fair share of tax.

“Most millionaires in the United States understand that the inequality we’re seeing now is destabilising our nation,” said Morris Pearl, chair of Patriotic Millionaires. “We really have to do something about that before it’s too late.”

Biden has made more progressive tax policies a cornerstone of his policymaking agenda.

In his State of the Union address in March, the US president said billionaires would need to pay a minimum tax of 25 per cent and has repeatedly pledged to ensure that the very wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. However, despite repeatedly pledging to enact a billionaires’ tax, such a measure is seen as unlikely to pass Congress.

The administration also wants to raise the highest marginal rate on income tax to 39.6 per cent.

The rise would probably cover many of those polled, however, and not just the extremely wealthy. Biden’s plan is to apply the top rate at a much lower threshold than the $100mn proposed in the YouGov poll, with single households with an income higher than $400,000, and married couples with a combined income of more than $450,000, liable for the higher rate.

The Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, meanwhile, wants to renew a series of tax cuts he made in 2017 — a move the White House argues would preserve a status quo in which the very rich have a far smaller tax burden than normal Americans. The Trump tax cuts would otherwise expire in 2025.

Several billionaires, including financiers Bill Ackman and Stephen Schwarzman, have said in recent weeks that they are backing Trump.

“President Biden’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans will make our tax system fairer; promote growth, efficiency and economic opportunity; enable investments to grow our economy and the middle class, and reduce deficits and fiscal risks,” National Economic Council deputy director Daniel Hornung told the Financial Times.

While Biden’s economic credentials have been damaged by the worst bout of inflation in the US since the 1980s, some wealthier Americans think he would do a better job than his Republican rival.

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The FT-Michigan Ross monthly poll of US voters has consistently showed that households with incomes above $100,000 are more likely than other wage groups to back Biden over Trump in their capacity to manage the economy.

The poll found that 45 per cent of those in the top income bracket thought Biden would better manage the economy, against 40 per cent backing Trump. While Biden has focused his campaign on winning middle-class voters, his support among high earners was the highest for any income group.

The YouGov poll also showed 62 per cent of respondents would support global co-ordination to stop billionaires moving countries to avoid higher taxes. A slightly lower figure, 59 per cent, said they supported the 2 per cent levy that global leaders are set to discuss at forthcoming G20 meetings in Brazil.

US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has ruled out backing the global levy in its current form.


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