Warren Buffett just fact checked Donald Trump.
In a debate Sunday, Trump acknowledged using a nine-figure loss in 1995 to reduce tax obligations and sought to liken the move to strategies used by some of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s wealthy supporters, including Buffett. On Monday, the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman released information from his personal taxes and challenged the Republican presidential candidate to do the same.
“He has not seen my income tax returns. But I am happy to give him the facts,” Buffett said in a statement. “I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13.”
Buffett has been clashing for months with Trump, who has refused to release his tax returns, citing an audit. At a campaign event for Clinton in Omaha, Nebraska, in August, the Berkshire chairman challenged the Republican candidate to meet him “any place, any time” to swap returns and answer questions from the public.
That never came to pass. On Monday, Buffett said he paid $1.85 million in federal income taxes in 2015 on adjusted gross income of $11.6 million. That would mean he paid an effective federal income tax rate of about 16 percent. In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, the top 1 percent of earners paid 27 percent, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service data by the Tax Foundation.
Most of Buffett’s $65 billion fortune comes from his controlling interest in Berkshire. The company doesn’t pay a dividend and, for decades, Buffett has asked the board to keep his annual salary at $100,000. The 86-year-old is steadily giving away his Berkshire shares to philanthropy.
He said Monday that he made more than $2.8 billion of donations last year. Yet his tax return shows only $5.5 million in deductions, mostly for allowable charitable contributions and state income taxes. The law “properly” limits what can be deducted, Buffett wrote.
He again dismissed the contention that Trump can’t release his own return because of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service.
“I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited,” Buffett wrote. “I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump — at least he would have no legal problem.”