Bill Gates, ending the decade richer, calls for higher wealth tax

The US billionaire says the rich, including himself and his wife, should pay more taxes than they currently do.

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    Bill Gates said he was 'disproportionately rewarded' for the work he has done, while many others who work just as hard struggle to get by. [File: Takaaki Iwabu/Bloomberg]
    Bill Gates said he was 'disproportionately rewarded' for the work he has done, while many others who work just as hard struggle to get by. [File: Takaaki Iwabu/Bloomberg]

    Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates started the last decade worth more than $50 billion and with a pledge to give away his fortune to charity.

    By the end of the decade, he'd donated billions of dollars to fight poverty and improve health care and education. But his fortune also more than doubled during the period, a result of soaring stock markets and favorable tax policies.

    And so in a fitting end to the decade, the world's second-richest person said he wants his fellow billionaires to pay much higher taxes.

    U.S. lawmakers should close loopholes, raise the estate tax and hike the capital-gains tax so that it equals the rate on labor income, Gates wrote Monday in a year-end blog post. He also called for states and local governments to make their taxes "fairer" and reiterated his support for a state income tax in Washington, where he lives.

    "I've been disproportionately rewarded for the work I've done -- while many others who work just as hard struggle to get by," he wrote. "That's why I'm for a tax system in which, if you have more money, you pay a higher percentage in taxes. And I think the rich should pay more than they currently do, and that includes Melinda and me."

    Gates, 64, has a net worth of $113.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world's 500 richest people.

    At an event in November, Gates expressed reservations about the wealth tax proposed by presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. In his blog post, Gates said he won't take a position on the various proposals being debated during the campaign.

    "But I believe we can make our system fairer without sacrificing the incentive to innovate," he said. "Americans in the top 1% can afford to pay a lot more before they stop going to work or creating jobs. In the 1970s, when Paul Allen and I were starting Microsoft, marginal tax rates were almost twice the top rate today. It didn't hurt our incentive to build a great company."

    SOURCE: Bloomberg