How Much Taxes Has Bill Gates Paid?

Gates claims to have paid a total of $10 billion in taxes over the years.

I’m Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ask Me Anything.

Vox just published a roundup of questions and answers from a REDDIT session hosted by Bill Gates.  Here is an abstract of parts of the Vox Roundup I felt were most interesting:

Bill Gates: “If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to (besides waiting in line for hamburgers), I recently wrote about what I learned at work last year.”

1) On the Gates Foundation and his goals for global health

Question from Swcomisac: “What would you still like to achieve that you haven’t?”

Gates: “The goal of the Foundation is that all kids grow up healthy — no matter where they are born. That means getting rid of malaria and many of the other diseases that affect poor countries. It should be achievable in my lifetime.”

2) On the amazing progress we’ve made so far in global health

Question from KubrickIsMyCopilot: “What’s the most encouraging bit of progress your foundation has funded to date?

3) On technology that could change the world

Bill Gates standing in line at a Dick’s Drive-In in Seattle.  The image was captured by Paul Rich at the Dick’s location on Northeast 45th Street in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, around 7 p.m. last Sunday. Rich reported:  “He ordered a cheeseburger, fries and Coke.”  In 2011, during an appearance at the University of Washington, Gates told students that being a billionaire can be overrated. And he brought up burgers. “I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, there’s a certain freedom, meaningful freedom, that comes with that,” Gates said. “But once you get much beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger. Dick’s has not raised their prices enough.”

Question from ironsheik84: “What’s a piece of technology that’s theoretical now that you wish you could make possible immediately? Thanks in advance and thank you for all of your humanitarian efforts!”

Gates: “I am fascinated by how hard it has been to teach computers to actually read so they understand the material. An example would be reading a textbook and passing a test. This question of knowledge representation is a fascinating one that Microsoft and lots of othersare working on.

“However, if I had one wish to make a new technology it would be a solution to malnutrition. Almost half the kids in poor countries grow up without their body or brain developing fully so they miss most of their potential.

“Second would be an HIV vaccine.”

4) On the biggest risks to humanity

Question from Realhuman221: “What do you think the greatest threat to humanity is at this moment?”

Gates: “There are some things that aren’t likely but we should worry about — nuclear bombsand bioterrorism (from nation states or terrorism), or a big pandemic. This is the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu [which killed 50 million people] and if it came back the amount of travel would make it spread faster than it did last time.

“Once you get past those threats then the biggest question is global cooperation to avoid climate change and reduce the risk of war. It is disconcerting to see a rise of countries turning inwards and not investing in alliances which have helped us avoid big wars since World War II.

“Climate change is a real test of how we can work together globally since it is a complex problem where major changes need to be done well in advance of the big harms.”

5) On how much he should pay in taxes

I have trouble with deciding whether to admire Bill Gates’ as a philanthropist.   His war on malaria, if it is successful, would be a great achievement in and off itself. The problem I have, however, is trying to decide where to draw the line between self indulgence and philanthropy. Paul Allen was very self indulgent in his philanthropy. He bought art, music ephemera, sports teams. These were “generously” shared with the rest of us but that sharing, of course, was itself a great pleasure. Leaving  malaria aside, as if one could, I am skeptical of some of Gates other philanthropies. I had high hopes for Gates’ interest in education reform.  A horrid example here in WAstate has been his support for the public fraud that is Western Governor’s University. I know enough about that to realize that the state endorsement was a result of Gate’s lobbying money. I have similar concerns about Gates massive support for “world health.” Read how he takes credit for small improvements in world health. I am skeptical that the millions Gates spent on studies and promotion of academic efforts at metrics is effective. But then I am not Bill Gates!

Question from habituallinestepper1: “What do you think you, personally, should be paying in taxes each year?”

Gates: “I think our system can be a lot more progressive (that is richer people paying a higher share).

“A key element is making capital gains taxation more like ordinary income (some have suggested making them the same) and having an estate tax more like we had in the past (55% above $3.5M).

“European countries collect a lot more taxes but through consumption taxes, but those are not progressive.

“If people want the government to do more it needs to be funded and I see us needing to improve our education and health services.

“So yes, I have paid $10B but I should have had to pay more on my capital gains.”

6) On how to combat billionaire tax avoidance

Question from PJHart86: “Hi Bill, what do you think about Rutger Bregman’s recent comments at Davos? is it even possible for governments to compel billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes, even if they wanted to?”

Gates: “As far as I know, most billionaires (and other people) comply with tax laws. There should be more transparency so it is clear who [owes] what and how loopholes are reducing tax collection. Countries need to work with each other on this.

“It is pretty amazing how few countries have estate taxes — even China doesn’t have one.”

7) On what it’s like to be a billionaire

Question from vansebastian: “The internet is fascinated by seeing you do ‘normal’ things, like wait in line for a burger. But what’s the most ‘treat yo self’ rich-guy thing that you do?”

Gates: “I have a nice house. It includes a trampoline room which seems kind of over the top but my kids love using it to work off their excess energy. I am not sure how guilty I should feel about being in a great house.

“The other thing is that I sometimes use a private jet. It does help me do my foundation work, but again it is a very privileged thing to have.”

8) On whether money really does buy happiness

Question from DanielAyon: “Do you think being a billionaire has made you a happier person than if you were just a middle-class person?”

Gates: “Yes. I don’t have to think about health costs or college costs. Being free from worry about financial things is a real blessing. Of course you don’t need a billion to get to that point. We do need to reduce the cost growth in these areas so they are accessible to everyone.”

You can read the full REDDIT SESSION here.

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