Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has stepped up his call for the government to impose bigger taxes on himself and others like him — but broke with President Obama, calling for everyone who makes under $500,000 to continue to pay the lower tax rates passed under President George W. Bush.
Mr. Obama has called for tax increases for those making $250,000 or more but has failed to push that through Congress. Many lawmakers say the $250,000 cutoff would hurt middle-class families at a time when they can’t afford it.
The threshold for tax increases is one of the major issues Congress is trying to work out as it decides who will pay more taxes on Jan. 1.
Mr. Buffett, who in recent years has crusaded for higher taxes, said that in all his years of managing others’ money, he never heard of investors changing their investment patterns because of taxes.
“Let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities,” he wrote in an op-ed article in the New York Times.
Mr. Buffett proposed a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on all taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and a 35 percent minimum tax on those who make more than that.
Right now, many high-income taxpayers pay lower rates because they chiefly earn investment income, which is taxed at 15 percent. Salary and wage income is taxed at up to 35 percent and is scheduled to go to more than 39 percent at the beginning of next year.
Overall, Mr. Buffett said the federal government should shoot for revenues of 18.5 percent of GDP and spending of 21 percent of GDP — leaving a persistent deficit, though far less than current levels. In fiscal 2012 the government taxed at 15.5 percent of GDP and spent at 22.4 percent of GDP.