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Yellen bats down proposal for global wealth tax for billionaires

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she does not support a proposal that would impose a global wealth tax on the wealthiest billionaires.

Yellen opposes the proposal, put forward by Brazil, which is leading the Group of 20 major economies this year. German, Spanish, and South African officials have also discussed the proposal, which aims to stop the ultrawealthy from safeguarding their assets from taxation by moving their funds to parts of the world with lower taxes.

“We believe in progressive taxation. But the notion of some common global arrangement for taxing billionaires with proceeds redistributed in some way — we’re not supportive of a process to try to achieve that,” Yellen said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “That’s something we can’t sign on to.”

The United States, under President Joe Biden, has supported a 15% global corporate minimum tax, although implementing such a policy has encountered obstacles in the U.S.

The U.S. has the highest share of the world’s billionaires. There are a record 2,781 people in the world who are billionaires in 2024, according to Forbes. Of those, 813, or nearly 30%, live in the U.S. China has the second-most billionaires, counting 406 worth some $1.3 trillion.

Yellen has a meeting this week with finance ministers from the Group of Seven, at which they will reportedly discuss a global wealth tax despite U.S. opposition to the move.

“This is exactly what we did with minimum taxation on corporate tax,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said recently. “It would be the same on the international taxation for the wealthiest individuals.”

In its latest budget request, the White House also called for a 25% minimum tax for domestic billionaires.

That provision would only affect the wealthiest 0.01% of taxpayers, according to the White House. The White House estimates that the billionaire minimum tax plan would bring in about $500 billion over the next decade.

Biden has called for a rash of other domestic tax changes as well, although they have little to no chance of gaining traction, given that Republicans hold control of the House and Democrats only have a tenuous grasp on the Senate, with some more centrist Democrats voting against some of the tax proposals.

Biden’s budget includes raising the headline corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a change he has sought for years. The 2017 tax cuts, championed by then-President Donald Trump, lowered the corporate rate from 35%.

Biden also wants to raise the corporate minimum tax from 15% to 21% and introduce more stringent limits on corporations’ ability to deduct wages of high-paid employees, according to the White House.

Congressional Democrats have also introduced legislation designed to soak the ultrawealthy.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) for years has pushed for a mark-to-market tax on wealth and last year introduced a bill that would tax those with net worths of over $1 billion. It would also apply to high earners who made more than $100 million in three consecutive years.

The Wyden plan would be a huge departure from how the country handles federal tax policy, as it would apply levies on the unrealized gains of assets such as stocks and bonds for the wealthiest people.

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Still, centrist Democrats opposed the Wyden mark-to-market plan. In 2021, when a mark-to-market proposal was first floated, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) stated opposition.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “I don’t like the connotation that we’re targeting different people as people that — basically, they contributed to society and create a lot of jobs and a lot of money and give a lot to philanthropic pursuits.”

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