Meet the 25 Hedge Fund Managers Whose $2.2 Billion Tax Break Could Pay for 50,000 Highway Construction Jobs
by Scott Klinger, 5/21/2015
Congress is trying to figure out how to come up with $10 billion to extend funding for the nation’s Highway Trust Fund for a year. Without action, it will run dry at the end of this month.
Here’s a suggestion: tax hedge fund managers in the same way we tax other rich Americans. The 25 top hedge fund managers who made Institutional Investors annual “Rich List” in 2014 took home $11.62 billion. And thanks to the hedge fund pay loophole, known in Washington D.C. as the "carried interest" loophole, these top twenty-five managers saved an estimated $2.2 billion on their tax bills. The carried interest loop hole allows hedge fund and private equity managers, two of the highest-paid job categories in America, to pay a tax rate of only 20 percent instead of the income tax rate they would otherwise pay (39 percent). They justify this low rate by claiming their earnings are related to investment gains, not the time they spend managing other peoples’ money.
Several thousand people work in jobs that allow them to take advantage of the carried interest exemption.
Closing the hedge fund pay loophole would give Congress a down payment on transportation funding that must be made to keep road crews operating through the end of the year.
So what’s stopping this seemingly logical move? Ideology and money. Republicans have promised they will not raise taxes – on anyone. And though their numbers are few, hedge fund managers influence is outsized. In the 2014 election cycle, the hedge fund industry provided more than $50 million in campaign contributions to Congressional candidates; one-third of their money went to Democrats and two-thirds to Republicans.
The average hedge fund manager on the Rich List makes $179,615 an hour; a highway paving machine operator makes $42,460 a year. If we asked just these 25 hedge fund managers to pay taxes at the same rate of other Americans more than 50,000 highway construction workers could stay on the job for the next year.
How about it Congress? Let’s pave our roads with a little tax fairness.