World’s Richest Family Takes $180 Million More From Americans

The Great Recession was a great wealth booster for the world’s wealthiest family.

The Wal-Mart heirs, who make up the world’s richest family by far, are expected to collectively dodge as much as $180.6 million in federal income taxes, thanks to aggressive pursuit of tax benefits set to expire Dec. 31, 2012.

In a move that received little attention due to the Black Friday Strike coverage, the Wal-Mart board announced Nov. 19 that it will rush payment of its quarterly dividend, giving shareholders their bonuses on Dec. 27,  instead of Jan. 2 as previously scheduled, reports the New York Times.

The date change means the Walton family (who together own 48% of Wal-Mart) and other shareholders will claim those earnings at the current dividends tax rate of 15%.

The Walton family’s 2012 take of the pie is estimated at a combined $636 million. After taxes, the Walton family should net $540.6 million from the Dec. 27 payment, saving the family $180.6 million over paying the taxes next year as scheduled (based on figures tax attorney Kenneth K. Bezozo supplied to the New York Times).

If Obama gets his way and the Bush Tax Cuts for the rich expire by Dec. 31, the income/dividends tax rate for wealthy individuals will reset to the pre-Bush-era level of 39.6%. In addition, the health reform bill is partially supported by an additional 3.8% tax on investment income, nudging the total potential tax rate for the wealthy to 43.4%, which is 28.4% higher than the current dividends rate.

The three Walton family members who sit on Wal-Mart’s board recused themselves from the vote, which doesn’t seem to deflect much suspicion about who’s backing the tax avoidance action. Each of the Walton family board members will make tens of millions off the early dividend payment.

Keep in mind that these people do not need a tax break. Instead, they should readjust their notions of what’s fair considering American consumers, workers, land grants, and infrastructure made them rich. The Walton family, who pay most of their workers minimum wage with sparse benefits, have a combined wealth of $102.7 billion, which is 49% GREATER than the wealth of the #1 richest person in the world (Carlos Slim, worth $69 billion according to Forbes).

Of course, Wal-Mart isn’t the only company calculating an advantage from this one-time tax break; more than 100 public companies are expected to do so — among them is Wynn Resorts. You may remember pre-election coverage of CEO Steve Wynn, who sent his employees a 67-page “voter guide” urging them to vote for pre-selected conservative Republican candidates. Wynn, who owns 10% of Wynn Resorts, also is leading his board in releasing an early dividend payment. Wynn should net an after-tax sum of $64 million from the $750 million total dividend, saving an estimated $21.3 million in federal taxes, compared with receiving the dividend in Jan. 2013.

For more coverage of Wal-Mart, read:

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