Opinion and Analysis
Taxation plan that shows America puts a premium on its billionaires
Posted Thursday, May 24 2012 at 19:18
The United States is the only country in the world which applies the same tax regime to all its citizens, regardless of where they live: nowhere else are non-residents charged the same federal tax rate as residents.
And this makes America’s plutocrats qualitatively different from every other country’s super-rich.
If you wanted to sum up Eduardo Saverin in three words, you could do a lot worse than Very Rich Eurotrash.
He didn’t become a Facebook billionaire because of his hacking skills or because Mark Zuckerberg happened to be his roommate in college; he became a Facebook billionaire because he had cash, and Zuckerberg needed cash to get Facebook off the ground.
Zuckerberg provided the valuable labour which went into creating Facebook; Saverin, for all the ideas he had, was basically needed for his money, and his ideas ended up going nowhere.
Today, now that he’s dynastically wealthy, he says things like “it’s a misperception, especially the playboy. I do have a Bentley. I do go out.”
Saverin might have more money than the Italian boys with cashmere sweaters draped over their shoulders who flit from one global Cipriani outpost to the next.
But when he talks of himself as “a global citizen”, he’s not lying: he’s just displaying a mindset which he shares with any number of well-heeled international jet-set types.
They’re easy to find: just get on a plane to Cannes or Sao Paulo, turn left at the first Tyler Brûlé, and you’ll find them picking at a $30 salad while wearing shoes which cost substantially more than the waiter’s weekly income.
They live a pampered and sheltered experience: they even have their own social network, to keep them from being forced to rub digital shoulders with the masses.
In January 2011, after moving to Singapore, Saverin decided that he wanted to give up his US citizenship.
He didn’t live in the US, he was going to have lots of income going forwards, and he felt that there was no good reason for him — a citoyen du monde — to pay 35 per cent of that income to the USA in particular.
Not to mention estate and gift taxes for when he finally passes on his wealth to someone else.
If Saverin hadn’t been a US citizen, all of this would have been a non-issue: simply moving to another country suffices to relieve you of most of your tax burden in your country of nationality.