Warren Buffett wants you to visualize Berkshire Hathaway’s tax bill. Get out your binoculars.

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If you want to see Berkshire Hathaway’s corporate income tax bill, here’s a tip from Warren Buffett: Buy an airplane ticket.

Berkshire Hathaway paid $32 billion in corporate taxes over the decade ending in 2021, according to Buffett’s annual shareholder letter released Saturday.

That’s a big-sounding sum, but Buffett, Berkshire’s CEO and chairman, knows a picture is worth a thousand words. Or 32 billion in this case. So the “Sage of Omaha” has a visualization exercise to make a point about tax policy, who pays and how much they pay.

First, he wrote, stack $1 million in $100 bills. “You will have a stack that reaches your chest.”

Next, stack $1 billion in $100 bills “— this is getting exciting! — and the stack reaches about 3⁄4 of a mile into the sky.”

For the final trick, pile $32 billion in $100 bills. “Now the stack grows to more than 21 miles in height, about three times the level at which commercial airplanes usually cruise,” Buffett wrote.

“When it comes to federal taxes, individuals who own Berkshire can unequivocally state ‘I gave at the office,’ he added.

It’s one part of Buffett’s latest annual shareholder letter, which also touched on topics including the “secret sauce” in Berkshire’s portfolio, the wisdom of his long-time partner Charlie Munger, and the lack of wisdom of stock buyback critics.

While Buffett has discussed Berkshire’s tax bill in other annual shareholder letters, this year’s imagery comes at a contentious moment for the U.S. tax code.

Buffett is painting a picture that’s sky high. But it’s also small when viewed from a different context. During the decade ending in 2021, the federal government collected $32.3 trillion while spending $43.9 trillion, according to Buffett’s letter. Individual income taxes comprise just under one-half of the revenue (48%) while Social Security and related payments are just over one-third and corporate income taxes constitute 8.5% of the revenue.

During that period, the 2017 Trump-era tax cuts reduced five of the seven individual income tax rates through 2025. It also permanently cut the corporate income tax rate to 21% from 35%.

Treasury Department data shows similar compositions.

For 2022, the $2.63 trillion in individual income tax revenue is 54% of the government’s tax revenue. Payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare contribute $1.48 trillion, or 30% of the revenue. The more than $400 billion in corporate income tax revenue is 9% of what’s coming into government coffers, the data shows.

But back to Berkshire Hathaway’s tax tab. Its contributions are around one 10th of 1% of everything the Treasury Department took in during the years in question, Buffett said.

“And that means — brace yourself — had there been roughly 1,000 taxpayers in the U.S. matching Berkshire’s payments, no other businesses nor any of the country’s 131 million households would have needed to pay any taxes to the federal government. Not a dime.”

Buffett isn’t suggesting a permanent tax holiday for the masses. Yet he’s talked for a long time about the real life tax rates for most people outstripping the rates for the super rich — like him. A ProPublica investigation found that Buffett personally paid a .1% tax rate between 2014 and 2018. In a lengthy response to ProPublica, Buffett said, “I continue to believe that the tax code should be changed substantially,” and that “huge dynastic wealth is not desirable for our society.” Buffett has pledged to give away at least half his wealth to charitable causes.

Buffett is worth $106 billion, the fifth richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“At Berkshire we hope and expect to pay much more in taxes during the next decade. We owe the country no less: America’s dynamism has made a huge contribution to whatever success Berkshire has achieved — a contribution Berkshire will always need,” Buffett wrote.

What’s next for tax rules and administration is unclear, especially at a time of divided government.

Last summer, Democrats — then with majorities in both chambers — passed a tax and climate bill that earmarked $80 billion in funding for the Internal Revenue Service over a decade.

The bill also enacted a 1% tax on stock buybacks and a 15% corporate minimum tax on modified book income, which Democrats say is a way to prevent large corporations from using other parts of the code to sidestep and whittle away their tax liability.

More than half the IRS funding would step up enforcement against rich taxpayers and corporations. Last month, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives voted to repeal the $80 billion for the IRS.

While Democrats argue that’s effectively a win for wealthy tax cheats, Republicans say their dim view of the IRS cash infusion is due to worry about overreach and wasted money.

The repeal bill is not expected to get far, considering Democratic control in the Senate and Biden’s veto power. Likewise, Biden’s call to quadruple the 1% tax on stock buybacks isn’t expected to get far either considering Republican control in the House.

Despite the Capitol Hill discord, Buffett struck a positive note about the direction of the American economy. “We count on the American Tailwind and, though it has been becalmed from time to time, its propelling force has always returned.”

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