The affluent often hold assets until death, avoiding capital gains taxes by passing property to heirs. The value of the inherited property generally adjusts to what it's worth on the date of death, known as a “step-up in basis.”
Billionaires have avoided taxation by paying themselves very low salaries while amassing fortunes in stocks and other assets. They then borrow off those assets to finance their lifestyles, rather than selling the assets and paying capital gains taxes.
The analysis from OMB and CEA economists estimates that the wealthiest 400 billionaire families in America paid an average of just 8.2 percent of their income—including income from their wealth that goes largely untaxed—in Federal individual income taxes between 2010 and 2018.
Musk is using a tried-and-true strategy favored by many American billionaires who have amassed highly appreciated stock -- borrowing against those assets to get cash without having to sell and pay taxes. Musk has a margin loan against some of his Tesla holdings for $12.5 billion of the deal.
According to the latest data, the top 1 percent of earners in America pay 40.1 percent of federal taxes; the bottom 90 percent pay 28.6 percent.
Due to years of repeated budget cuts, the IRS rarely has the staff or internal resources to undertake the expensive, labor-intensive auditing process to force the biggest corporations and the wealthiest individuals to actually pay what they owe the IRS and any associated penalties.
The wealthy, as with many ordinary citizens, are able to reduce their income tax bills via such things as charitable donations and drawing money from investment income rather than wage income.
Penalties for tax evasion and fraud
If you have not filed a tax return, you could be charged with a summary offence under the Income Tax Act. If you are found guilty, the penalties can include substantial fines and a prison sentence.
In general, it is illegal to deliberately refuse to pay one's income taxes. Such conduct will give rise to the criminal offense known as, “tax evasion”. Tax evasion is defined as an action wherein an individual uses illegal means to intentionally defraud or avoid paying income taxes to the IRS.
The top 1 percent (taxpayers with AGI of $546,434 and above) earned 20.1 percent of total AGI in 2019 and paid 38.8 percent of all federal income taxes. In 2019, the top 1 percent of taxpayers accounted for more income taxes paid than the bottom 90 percent combined.
After adjusting its data to reflect current inflation using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, SmartAsset found that to break into the top 1% of earners, an average American family needs to make over $597,815 yearly.
Increasing taxes on the wealthy makes sense, as they are the ones who are most able to afford tax increases. The people who have benefitted the most from the economy should support programs that help the poorest. A progressive tax system can prevent wealth discrepancies from getting too large.
According to Saez and Zucman, it's not only the bottom 50% of households who pay more — which include many in the middle class — it's also those in the upper-middle class and in the top 1% who pay more in taxes than those in the 0.1% do.
57% of U.S. households paid no federal income tax in 2021: Study.
But if no one filed his or her income tax, that would mean a huge increase in tax evasion, and much less money for the federal government, which already runs substantial deficits. So the government would have to borrow a lot more money, and the spending would have to go way down.
In addition to paying the salaries of government workers, your tax dollars also help to support common resources, such as police and firefighters. Tax money helps to ensure the roads you travel on are safe and well-maintained. Taxes fund public libraries and parks.
In 2021, for example, the minimum for single filing status if under age 65 is $12,550. If your income is below that threshold, you generally do not need to file a federal tax return.
If you owe more than $50,000, you may still qualify for an installment agreement, but you will need to complete a Collection Information Statement, Form 433-A. The IRS offers various electronic payment options to make a full or partial payment with your tax return.
There is generally a 10-year time limit on collecting taxes, penalties, and interest for each year you did not file. However, if you do not file taxes, the period of limitations on collections does not begin to run until the IRS makes a deficiency assessment.
If you continually ignore your taxes, you may have more than fees to deal with. The IRS could take action such as filing a notice of a federal tax lien (a claim to your property), actually seizing your property, making you forfeit your refund or revoking your passport.
There's no legal limit on how much money you can keep at home. Some limits exist with bringing money into the country and in the form of cash gifts, but there's no regulation on how much you can keep at home.