Coronavirus stimulus checks were aimed at helping families and individuals struggling financially because of the pandemic. However, a recent report claims that many billionaires got coronavirus stimulus checks as well.
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A report from ProPublica claims that at least 18 billionaires got federal stimulus checks. Not only billionaires, but hundreds of other ultra-wealthy individuals also got the stimulus checks that were targeted at poor and middle-income households.
Further, the report claims that about 270 wealthy people got the stimulus checks in the first round, which was approved in April last year. ProPublica says it used the IRS data on thousands of the nation's wealthiest individuals to back its claims.
One reason these rich people qualified for the stimulus check is that they utilize tax deductions that allows them to reduce their net incomes to less than zero. The first stimulus check of $1,200 (and $2,400 for married couples) went to those earning less than $75,000 a year (couples with incomes below $150,000).
The list of billionaires, who got the stimulus checks, include names like philanthropist George Soros, financier Ira Rennert (CEO of Renco Group), Oil mogul Timothy Headington and others. George Soros’ son Robert also reportedly got the stimulus check under the CARES Act. A family representative for Soros admitted that the philanthropist and his son got the stimulus check under the CARES Act, but they returned it.
"He did not request the funds or take any other action to obtain them. He promptly returned the check," the representative said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
Need For Tax Reform
It is very likely that the billionaires who got the stimulus checks didn’t request it. Rather, the IRS automatically sent them the payment like they did to the millions of others who qualified for the payment.
Still, the fact that billionaires got coronavirus stimulus checks raises questions on the U.S. tax system. It is likely that these billionaires used the deductions, write-offs and other tax loopholes to minimize their income. And, in the process, they qualified for the stimulus payment that was meant for people making less than $75,000 annually.
Using this report from ProPublica, several people have raised questions on the tax system. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, for instance, called the news of billionaires getting stimulus checks a “disgrace” and asked for “real tax reform."
Separately, this report from ProPublica comes amid a push from Democratic lawmakers for a tax on billionaires. These Democratic lawmakers argue that it is only fair that the wealthiest citizens pay more in taxes. A report from Americans for Tax Fairness found that the collective net worth of about 700 U.S. billionaires increased by about $2 trillion owing to an increase in stock prices and the value of other assets.