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Friday, November 18, 2011

Warren Buffett Backs Estate Taxes

This business article puts a different twist on Warren Buffet's calls for the 'Rich' to be made to pay more taxes.  Mr. Buffett appears to be a most generous businessman but the article implies a certain level of spin is involved in his stellar reputation.

The Real Reason Warren Buffett Backs Estate Taxes:

Here’s the true reason why Buffett likes a tax code that is hard on billionaires like him, as explained by journalist Tim Carney in his book “The Big Ripoff: How Big Business And Big Government Steal Your Money”:

Warren Buffett’s business is buying businesses. Bill Gates makes software and Paul Newman makes movies and salad dressing, but Warren Buffett makes money. He runs Berkshire Hathaway as CEO and principle owner. Berkshire Hathaway used to make textiles, but now they simply own other companies. Some familiar Berkshire Hathaway properties are GEICO, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, and the Buffalo News.

While Buffett is clearly an unusually brilliant investor, what he has done with his company has been straightforward in some ways. He buys companies that are worth more than the selling price. He buys things that will go up in value.

One great way to buy something that is going up in value is to buy a company that is already very profitable, but whose owner(s) have to sell. One common way that happens is when the owner dies and the heirs cannot afford to pay the estate tax on the properties they stand to inherit. They are therefore forced to sell them to pay the taxes. Carney cites the case of the Buffalo News, a highly profitable family-owned newspaper that Buffett bought after the family matriarch died without doing proper estate planning. Dairy Queen was acquired in a similar manner.

When the estate tax forces an owner to sell his business, it provides an opportunity for a bargain, but that opportunity is not available to everyone ... When the estate tax puts a business on the market, it is a market that is only open to big business.

Beyond making it easier for Buffett to find bargains, the estate tax drives customers to his primary business interest, insurance, including life insurance. The estate tax has created an entire industry called “estate planning.” Anyone with a business or large assets sooner or later needs to engage in estate planning, which involves hiring tax specialists, attorneys, and accountants ... Two central elements of estate planning are life insurance and annuities.

Bear that in mind the next time a liberal writer extols Buffett’s selflessness.

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