Even if you have a lot of money, it doesn’t always mean you like to give it away. When it comes to making money, some wealthy people will do anything they can to hold on to their dollars.
From the president to famous CEOs, the rich have tricks for dodging high tax bills. Although some ways might be considered shady, several of these famous names have found legal ways to avoid paying up.
Net Worth: $5.1 billion
As the founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic airlines, Richard Branson is a business mogul sitting on a cool $5 billion fortune. Although he hails from the U.K., his primary residence is on Necker Island, an island in the Caribbean that he purchased for $180,000. Branson has repeatedly been accused of escaping to Necker Island as a way out of paying taxes due to the lack of income taxes there, but the Virgin mogul has denied this.
“I have not left Britain for tax reasons but for my love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands,” Branson wrote on the Virgin website in 2013, according to The Telegraph.
As a resident in the U.K., Branson would have to pay 50 percent of his income in taxes, compared to zero percent income taxes as a permanent resident on Necker Island.
Net Worth: $124 billion
As the CEO of Amazon and the richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos definitely knows a thing or two about how to build a successful business. He also knows how to get around not paying high taxes.
For instance, Amazon scored more than $5 billion in 2017 from U.S. profits alone, but managed to pay little to no taxes thanks to the 2017 Tax Act, which increased corporate tax cuts. As a result, the retailer reportedly received a $789 million tax cut. Five years prior to that, Amazon made $8.2 billion and paid just 11.4 percent in taxes, hiding more than two-thirds of its profits during that time, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Net Worth: $3.1 billion
Before Donald Trump was president of the United States, he earned most of his money as a real estate developer based in New York. However, the president has been repeatedly accused of failing to pay taxes.
In October 2018, The New York Times released an in-depth report alleging that Trump hadn’t paid taxes for much of the ’90s and beyond. Although the IRS has not officially charged Trump with any illegal activity regarding his taxes, it doesn’t mean that Trump is in the clear. In a 2016 presidential debate, Trump acknowledged that he used the existing tax codes to avoid paying more than he needed to. The New York Times further exposed the strategy that Trump might have used to offset the losses of his Atlantic casinos to escape paying taxes, which totaled more than $900 million.
Net Worth: $82 billion
Business mogul Warren Buffett is not just a genius investor — he’s also smart when it comes to paying his taxes. In 2011, the multibillionaire admitted that he used the 30 percent maximum charity tax deduction to help offset his regular income and “offset his lower long-term capital gains income,” according to Forbes.
At the same time, Buffett is also able to dodge high taxes due to counting much of his income as “stock price appreciation.” Due to a tax loophole that states “any gains in the price of stock do not count as income until that stock is sold,” Buffett is able to be taxed at a relatively low rate compared to his net worth, according to Millennial Moola.
U2 appears to be no stranger to dodging high tax rates. In 2006, the band came under criticism after they moved part of their business from their native Ireland to the Netherlands, as it appeared they were trying to escape the new tax rules for musicians in Ireland. Up until that time, artists had been allowed a 250,000-euro cap on tax-free earnings such as album royalties, according to the Irish Times. Not too long after the cap was lifted, the band set up shop in Holland.
The Rolling Stones
Legendary rock band the Rolling Stones owes its multimillion-dollar success to its fans — but also to clever tax-dodging strategies throughout the years.
In 1971, the band famously moved from England to France as tax exiles to escape the British’s government’s high tax rate of 93 percent for its top earners. During that time, they recorded their highly praised album “Exile on Main Street.” The band also managed to save big under the guidance of their financial manager, Rupert Loewenstein. With his direction, the band dodged millions in taxes and paid a mere 1.6 percent on their earnings. Additionally, the Rolling Stones made moves to open a business in the Netherlands and avoided rehearsing in the U.S. to keep their tax bills low, according to AOL.
Net Worth: $50 million
Creator of the raunchy “Girls Gone Wild” videos, Joe Francis ran into some financial trouble when he pleaded guilty to filing false income tax returns and bribery back in 2009. Although Francis was accused of owing the IRS more than $17 million in back taxes for three years, Francis admitted to withholding just half a million dollars in interest income from the IRS. As part of his plea deal, Francis was ordered to pay around $250,000 — much less than what he was accused of owing — in restitution to the IRS.
Net Worth: $25 million
Country singer Willie Nelson might be known as one of America’s music legends, but he also has famously short-changed the IRS. In 1990, the music star found himself in trouble with Uncle Sam after the IRS accused Nelson of tucking away most of his income in hidden tax shelters. As a result, he was left with a $32 million tax debt. Three years later, Nelson was ordered to pay $16.7 million, but ultimately settled and agreed to pay just $9 million.
Net Worth: $230 million
The late iconic musician David Bowie was not a fan of paying high taxes in the U.K., especially because his home country charged a 95 percent tax rate on income for the wealthy. This punitive tax rate affected many musicians, including American singer Rod Stewart and the rock ‘n’ roll legend himself. To avoid the hefty tax bill, Bowie relocated to Switzerland.
Net Worth: $42.5 billion
The late founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad not only established one of the biggest furniture stores in the world, but also managed to avoid paying taxes in Sweden for over 40 years. In 1973, Kamprad moved to Switzerland as a way out of paying the Swedish tax rate of up to 85 percent for the country’s top earners. At the time, Switzerland’s tax rate hovered around 12 percent for federal income taxes and 1 percent for the wealth tax. Before he died, Kamprad returned to his home country of Sweden and paid a portion of his taxes to his home country.
More on Tax Laws
- How Much Money Gets Taken Out of Paychecks in Every State
- If You Can’t Pass This Quiz, the IRS Is (Probably) Coming After You
- How Much Money You Would Have If You Never Paid Taxes
Net worth information was sourced from Forbes and Celebrity Net Worth.