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Microsoft founder Bill Gates attends a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 26, 2012. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS)
Microsoft founder Bill Gates attends a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 26, 2012. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS)

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Gates joins call for higher tax rates on the rich Add to ...

Bill Gates has joined fellow billionaire Warren Buffett in calling for higher taxes on the rich.



“Even as the economy improves and you end the wars, you’re going to have to raise taxes and certainly, whatever form it takes, and I’m not an expert on this -- the rich should bear a larger increase than the rest,” the Microsoft Corp. founder and philanthropist told Fox News Thursday in Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum.

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Mr. Gates revisited a theme that U.S. President Barack Obama hammered at in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Mr. Obama talked up a plan, dubbed the “Buffett Rule” that would slap a minimum tax of 30 per cent on individuals making more than $1-million (U.S.) a year.



“Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes?” Mr. Obama told the Congress. “Most Americans would call that common sense.”



Mr. Buffett was the first billionaire American to suggest that it wasn’t fair that his secretary paid a higher tax rate than he did thanks to a long list of tax breaks that favour wealthy investors.



Mr. Obama invited Mr. Buffett’s secretary Debbie Bosanek to sit in the VIP gallery as he delivered his address.



Taxes, and who should pay them, has a emerged as a key theme in the lead-up to this November’s U.S. elections. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's tax returns show he paid less than 14 per cent in taxes on $21.7-million of income in 2010 because his income came from investments rather than a salary.



Republicans have accused Mr. Obama of engaging in class warfare. But speaking to ABC News this week, along with Ms. Bosanek, Mr. Buffett said if it’s class warfare the super-rich have a “nuclear bomb” -- lobbyists.



“If this is a war, my side has had the nuclear bomb. We’ve got K-Street, we’ve got lobbyists, we’ve got money on our side in terms of lobbyists,” he told the network. “Deb does not have a lobbyist. She doesn’t have anybody remotely that’s representing her. But, believe me, plenty of rich families have lobbyists that are working like crazy to get rid of estate taxes, lower capital gain taxes, whatever it may be. So, if there has been a war going on, the war has been waged by the people who are very well to do who are trying to shift the burden onto people like that and away from themselves.”



Mr. Gates is the second richest person in the world with a net worth of about $56-billion. Warren Buffett is ranked third with a net worth of about $50-billion.



Follow on Twitter: @barriemckenna

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