The news outlet ProPublica recently revealed that U.S. billionaires pay little or no federal income tax on their immense fortunes, and the details are deeply unnerving to anyone except the most ardent defenders of the rich and famous. For the rest of us, it’s difficult to fathom how, for instance, the richest man on earth — Jeff Bezos — not only enjoys a tax rate of less than 1% but claims $4,000 in child tax credits designed to help low-income families on his returns. And remember that he’s one of the American billionaires who got richer during COVID.
While there are always going to be billionaires with phalanxes of accountants who create complex tax-avoidance strategies, some of the country’s richest men and women have been giving away at least a portion of their vast fortunes. 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a ranking of those who have donated the largest share of their net worth.
In all, their contributions total $155 billion out of a net worth of $799 billion, with the average being $5.7 billion out of nearly $30 billion. But the averages hide the outliers. Heavyweight donors on the list are globally recognized names: Buffet, Gates, Bloomberg, and Soros, three of whom are among the 30 richest Americans of all time.
To determine the billionaires who have given away the largest share of their net worth, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed “The 25 Most Philanthropic Billionaires” published by Forbes, as well as information from Bloomberg and other sources, and ranked givers by the percentage of their net worth donated to philanthropic causes. The ranking is based solely on committed dollars and donations that have actually been paid out, ignoring pledges, gifts given to tax-advantaged accounts, and philanthropy from extended families of heirs, such as the Waltons. Foreign nationals were excluded. Lifetime giving has been calculated through 2020, and net worth as of Jan. 14, 2021.
But this ranking also tips its top hat to billionaires who have given away a much larger share. These less-heralded donors include a retired banker who says he can’t get rid of his money fast enough, a widow who champions LGBT rights, and a 90-year-old billionaire who has given away nearly every penny of his $8 billion fortune.