2021: Will the new tax code force Buffett's estate to sell Berkshire shares upon his death?
BECKY QUICK: One last tax question. This one comes from William Barnard, who says in the owner’s manual, a portion of your annual report, Warren, you state on my death, none of my stock will have to be sold to take care of the cash requests I’ve made or for taxes. With the recent Biden proposal to treat unrealized gains as sold and taxable at death at a 43.4% rate change the amount of stock required to be sold for payment of taxes upon your death?
WARREN BUFFETT: Yeah, well, the tax laws can be changed tomorrow and I don’t, you know, it can be done a lot of different ways and it’s been done a lot of different ways in the past. I can tell you, I can actually make a promise to society that 99.7% of what I have when I die will either go to philanthropy or to the federal government and the federal government can actually determine the rules on that. And, no, I would prefer that it would go to philanthropy. I think it actually will accomplish more utility if it goes to be used by some smart people in philanthropy than if it’s simply reduces the federal debt by a hundred billion dollars or something when I die. I don’t think it makes a bit of difference, if federal debt is 100 billion higher or lower. It won’t change anything in the world.
And at present days, it doesn’t really save them anything because they can borrow a hundred billion. It doesn’t cost them anything anyway, but that’s conditioned won’t prevail, but I would not regard it. I’m just talking personally, I’m not advocating this public policy, but I wouldn’t, if they took it all. It would not bother me. I mean it
CHARLIE MUNGER: I guarantee it won’t bother you.
WARREN BUFFETT: Yeah, yeah, Charlie says you won’t know. If the American democracy decide that it’s better to take it all, which I don’t think they will, or I don’t think they should, but nevertheless, so what? I would like to see it used to accomplish the most for humanity and that means having smart people properly motivated and more importantly, I mean, not improperly motivated distribute it in a way.
And then who knows what the hell it would be 10, 20, 30 or 40 years from now. I do know if it goes to the government, it, basically, it reduces the national debt by that amount. I don’t think it changes whether they change the minimum wage laws or anything else. I just think a little figure changes, it’ll show up in the budget one day, “Received from Buffet, X,” and then some huge figure appears down below. I don’t think I really, so I, I would prefer it be used privately, but that’s really up to the people of the United States to decide through their representatives.