"If we had a national billionaire income tax, we'd collect that revenue no matter where he lived," said Americans for Tax Fairness.
Jeff Bezos, founder of the e-commerce behemoth Amazon and one of the richest men in the world, is poised to save at least $610 million in taxes by moving from Washington state to a hyper-exclusive Miami island that's been dubbed "Billionaire Bunker."
Bezos announced the move from Seattle—home to Amazon's headquarters—to Miami in an Instagram post on November 2. The previous month, Bezos purchased two mansions in Indian Creek Village for $68 million and $79 million. Other prominent figures, including retired NFL superstar Tom Brady and billionaire investor Carl Icahn, own properties on the island, which is only accessible to those with invites.
Bloombergreported last month that "Bezos emissaries have reached out to at least three other homeowners on the island about purchasing their properties, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. Conversations are ongoing."
While Bezos didn't mention the potential tax savings as one of the reasons for his move, the announcement came after Washington state's new 7% capital gains tax on the sale or exchange of stocks and other assets worth more than $250,000 took effect after a lengthy court fight. The tax brought in far more revenue in its first year than supporters expected.
As CNBCreported Monday, Bezos has been selling Amazon shares nearly every year for more than two decades—but he stopped in 2022, the first year of Washington's new tax.
Now that he's in Florida, which doesn't tax income or capital gains, Bezos has resumed selling his Amazon stock, dumping around 12 million shares worth roughly $2 billion last week. CNBC pointed to recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings showing that Bezos has "launched a pre-scheduled stock-selling plan to unload 50 million shares before Jan. 31, 2025. At today's price, that would total more than $8.7 billion."
"On the $2 billion sale last week, he saved $140 million that he would have paid to Washington state," CNBC observed. "On the entire sale of 50 million shares over the next year, he will save at least $610 million. And that's assuming Amazon shares remain flat. If they continue to rise, the value of his shares—and his tax savings—will be even higher."
"If Bernie's Make Billionaires Pay Act was signed into law during the pandemic Bezos would have paid $42,800,000,000 more in taxes and everyone in America would have had healthcare as a right."
According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Bezos' new home state has the most regressive tax system in the U.S.—a title that was held by Washington prior to the enactment of the 7% capital gains tax.
Bezos is currently worth around $197 billion, a number that can fluctuate significantly on a given day based on the movement of Amazon's stock price.
Warren Gunnels, staff director for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), argued in a social media post late Monday that Bezos' exorbitant wealth cries out for more aggressive taxation at the federal level.
"If Bernie's Make Billionaires Pay Act was signed into law during the pandemic Bezos would have paid $42,800,000,000 more in taxes and everyone in America would have had healthcare as a right," Gunnels wrote, noting that revenue from the 2020 bill would have been enough for Medicare to fully pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for all Americans for a year.
Right-wing commentators, such as the Cato Institute's Scott Lincicome and FreedomWorks' Stephen Moore, used Bezos' move to suggest that taxing the wealthy only pushes them to move elsewhere in search of lower tax rates.
But ITEP research director Carl Davis told Common Dreams that "when you look at the data, there isn't much support for the view that high-income people are moving in meaningful numbers because of taxes." A 2016 study by Stanford University researchers found that while "millionaire tax flight is occurring," it is "only at the margins of statistical and socioeconomic significance."
"Without good data to back them up," said Davis, "the folks who want to use migration fears to argue against taxing the rich often end up relying on anecdotes to make their point."
Americans for Tax Fairness, a progressive advocacy group, wrote on social media Tuesday that "if we had a national billionaire income tax, we'd collect that revenue no matter where he lived."
"Billionaires can't quit America to avoid paying," the group added. "If they left, we'd collect a fortune in exit taxes."