US authorities are investigating the 'illegal' leak of billionaires' tax information, including data on Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett

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US authorities are investigating the 'illegal' leak of billionaires' tax information, including data on Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett
ProPublica revealed tax return information on Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk.Susan Walsh/AP; Joshua Roberts/Reuters; Axel Schmidt/Getty Images
  • The US government is investigating how tax information on the richest Americans went public.
  • ProPublica reported on the income and tax payments of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and other billionaires.
  • The White House described the leaking of tax information as "illegal."

The US government is investigating how some of the wealthiest Americans, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, had their tax information published online.

Nonprofit news site ProPublica published a report on Tuesday showing how much the 25 richest Americans - including Bezos, Musk, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - paid in tax. The report highlighted how two key tax loopholes benefit billionaires.

"I share the concerns of every American for the sensitive and private nature and confidential nature of the information the IRS receives," IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a Senate Finance Committee hearing. The hearing had been scheduled before the report was published.

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"Trust and confidence in the Internal Revenue Service is sort of the bedrock of asking people and requiring people to provide financial information," Rettig said.

Treasury spokeswoman Lily Adams said "the unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information is illegal."

"The matter is being referred to the Office of the Inspector General, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, all of whom have independent authority to investigate," Adams said in a statement shared with Insider.

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ProPublica reported that Musk's wealth grew by $14 billion from 2014 to 2018, but that he only paid $455 million in taxes. Bezos did not pay any income taxes for at least two years between 2006 and 2018, the report said.

Buffett paid minimal tax by holding Berkshire Hathaway stock and not paying a dividend, according to ProPublica's report. The investor defended himself in a statement to the news outlet, saying his shareholders didn't want a dividend and that he gave nearly all of his money to good causes.

Insider has reached out to ProPublica, the IRS, and the White House for comment.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during Tuesday's briefing that the Biden administration is taking the "illegal" leak of tax information "very seriously."

"We know that there is more to be done to ensure that corporations, individuals who are at the highest income are paying more of their fair share," Psaki said, adding that this is part of President Joe Biden's budget and proposals.

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