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Millionaires Call for Wealth Taxes as Wealth of World's Billionaires Surges $4 trillion in Pandemic Year

Millionaires call on finance leaders to focus recovery efforts on reducing inequality.

Study shows a modest wealth tax would raise $345 billion a year, more than twice the cost of a global vaccine program covering everyone on earth.

WASHINGTON - The planet’s 2,365 billionaires have seen their wealth increase $4 trillion, or 54 percent, during the pandemic year. Their combined wealth rose from $8.04 trillion to $12.39 trillion between March 18, 2020 and March 18, 2021, according to new analysis from the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) using data from Forbes, Bloomberg, and Wealth-X. There were 270 new billionaires on the global list since a year ago, while 91 billionaires fell off the list.

In response to the enormous wealth gains of global billionaires, Patriotic Millionaires, its sister organisation in the UK, and other UK allies, are calling for global finance leaders to focus recovery efforts on reducing inequality, to prevent further wealth hoarding, and build fairer economies post COVID.

At the global level, the wealthiest 20 billionaires have a combined $1.83 trillion in wealth – with an increase of $742 billion, or 68 percent, over the pandemic year. In comparison, the 2019 GDP of Spain was $1.3 trillion.

While billionaires were getting richer, the pandemic caused the global economy to shrink by 3.5 percent in 2020, according to the IMF. COVID-19 has been an accelerant for global inequality, with acute adverse impacts on women, youth, the poor, the informally employed, and those who work in contact-intensive sectors.

Ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting at the IMF and World Bank Spring meetings next week, this network of millionaires is calling for finance leaders to consider taxing wealth as a central pillar in national and global policy making, helping to release billions of dollars to assist both domestic and global economies recover in a more just way. 

“As a millionaire I know personally that our global economic system has enshrined wealth accumulation for the few – to the detriment of ordinary people in every country. We all deserve more than a pre-COVID path to recovery,” said Morris Pearl, Chair of Patriotic Millionaires and former managing director at BlackRock, Inc. “Taxing wealth has to be a key, central policy for all governments if we want to build beyond the skewed and faulty economic system we previously had.”

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If global billionaires had paid an annual wealth tax in 2020, modeled on the “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” levy proposed by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, they would have paid an estimated $345 billion in wealth taxes. Based on modest expectations of wealth growth, a small wealth tax such as this would raise $4.14 trillion over the next decade, according to calculations by IPS.

The annual revenue from this wealth tax would be more than twice the estimated $141.2 billion cost of delivering COVID-19 vaccines to every person on the planet, according to estimates from Oxfam.

The U.S. accounts for less than one-third of billionaire wealth on the global list. If this tax was applied to U.S. billionaires on the Forbes Billionaires List, it would generate $120 billion a year, or $1.5 trillion over the next decade, according to IPS.

“A 3% tax on wealth over $1 billion is the bare minimum we can aim for. We need to be taxing all wealth more effectively to create economies of strength and stability,” said Pearl. “The G20 finance ministers, and international finance institutions, need to foster a recovery beyond regressing to the same-old, same-old. We need to tax the rich.”

“The billionaire pandemic windfalls should be taxed to cover the cost of vaccinating the world and reducing inequality throughout the global economy,” said Chuck Collins, researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies, Program on Inequality. “Unless we tax the world’s billionaires, the legacy of the pandemic will be accelerated concentrations of wealth and power.”

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Proud “traitors to their class,” members of the Patriotic Millionaires are high-net worth Americans, business leaders, and investors who are united in their concern about the destabilizing concentration of wealth and power in America. The mission of The Patriotic Millionaires organization is to build a more stable, prosperous, and inclusive nation by promoting public policies based on the “first principles” of equal political representation, a guaranteed living wage for all working citizens, and a fair tax system.

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