The right-wing has been lauding Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin for his decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid taxes. But he isn’t the only one who’s going to slash his tax bill in the wake of Facebook’s upcoming initial public offering: both CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the company itself will lower their tax bill for years to come.
While Zuckerberg will pay a hefty tax bill right off the bat if he follows through on his plan to sell $5 billion in Facebook stock options, as the New York Times noted, he may then never pay a dime of taxes on the rest of his Facebook wealth. “Instead, he can simply use his stock as collateral to borrow against his tremendous wealth and avoid all tax,” the Times reported.
And, as Citizens for Tax Justice has noted, Facebook may use the issuance of stock options to avoid corporate income taxes, instead receiving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in refunds:
The tax law says that if a corporation issues options for employees to buy the company’s stock in the future for its price when the option issued, then if the stock has gone up in value when employees exercise the options, the company gets to deduct the difference between what the employee bought it for and its market price.
When, as Facebook expects, the 187 million stock options are cashed in this year, Facebook will get $7.5 billion in tax deductions (which will reduce the company’s federal and state taxes by $3 billion). According to Facebook, these tax deductions should exceed the company’s U.S. taxable 2012 income and result in a net operating loss (NOL) that can then be carried back to the preceding two years to offset its past taxes, resulting in a refund of up to $500 million.
“When profitable corporations can use the stock option tax deduction to pay zero corporate income taxes for years on end, average taxpayers are forced to pick up the tax burden,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). “It isn’t right, and we can’t afford it.” This tax preference for corporations costs the U.S. about $2 billion in revenue per year.
In addition, Zuckerberg’s using a totally legal accounting gimmick to transfer money to his unborn children, thus avoiding the gift tax. He also — by virtue of accepting a $1 dollar salary and purely living off his wealth — could be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is intended to benefit low-income Americans.