Tuesday, December 5, 2023
HomeFinancial AdvisorBillionaire Tax Rests On A Disputed $14,729 Refund At The Supreme Court

Billionaire Tax Rests On A Disputed $14,729 Refund At The Supreme Court

Democratic dreams of imposing a wealth tax on the richest Americans risk being snuffed out by the US Supreme Court in a dispute over a $14,729 bill.

Calls to tax assets in addition to income have grown since Senator Elizabeth Warren ran for the White House on the issue in 2020, with President Joe Biden’s 2024 budget requesting a “billionaire minimum tax” to ease the federal deficit. But in a case set for argument Tuesday, the justices will consider whether the Constitution effectively precludes Congress from putting a levy on stock holdings, real estate and other wealth.

“The case literally could involve trillions of dollars and directly affect the way our economic and tax systems work because it calls on the court to decide whether a wealth tax might be constitutional,” said John Yoo, a University of California at Berkeley law professor who helped draft a brief in the case for the anti-tax group FreedomWorks.

The court’s decision to take up the case puts the justices in the middle of the partisan battle over the nation’s tax and budget policies. The court is likely to rule next year in the middle of the presidential election campaign.

The case stems from a 2017 tax law provision that aimed to collect hundreds of billions of dollars on earnings accumulated and held overseas by big multinational companies. The provision, known as the mandatory repatriation tax, was part of a Republican-backed tax overhaul passed during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Taxpayers Charles and Kathleen Moore are seeking a refund of the $14,729 in taxes they paid on their ownership of a stake in KisanKraft Machine Tools Private Ltd., an Indian company that supplies tools and equipment to farmers.

The Moores invested $40,000 almost two decades ago, acquiring 13% of the company’s common shares. Although the KisanKraft has grown steadily since then, it has reinvested its earnings rather than distributing them to shareholders as dividends. The Moores, who are represented by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, contend that they can’t be taxed since they never realized any gains.

Along the way, the Moores are arguing for a narrow interpretation of the Constitution’s Sixteenth Amendment, the 1913 provision that empowered Congress to levy an income tax.

Alito Controversy

The Moores themselves have become a subject of scrutiny. Company documents indicate Charles Moore might have been more involved with KisanKraft than the couple revealed in the legal proceedings. He was a director of the company for five years and received thousands of dollars in travel-reimbursement payments, according to the company’s filings with India’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs, and he engaged in transactions that suggest he was more of an insider than a passive outside shareholder.

One of the Moores’ lawyers, David Rivkin of Baker & Hostetler, sparked another controversy when he co-wrote two article that described conservative Justice Samuel Alito in favorable terms. The articles, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section, gave Alito a forum to discuss calls for stronger ethics rules and the leak of the court’s abortion 2022 opinion.



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