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Debate Over Taxes And Reparations: Insights From Tiffany Cross, Angela Rye, And Andrew Gillum

Is actor Terrence Howard right that it's 'immoral' for those with slave ancestors to pay taxes?

As BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported, Terrence Howard made some waves when he declared during a voicemail to the lead tax attorney for the Justice Department that Black people should not have to pay taxes due to the unpaid bill of reparations owed to Black people by the United States government. 

In a recent episode of their Native Land podcast, television journalist Tiffany Cross; Angela Rye, head of political advocacy firm IMPACT Strategies; and former Florida politician Andrew Gillum discussed the merits of Howard’s claim even though they briefly acknowledged that the Hollywood star’s claims likely come from a place of self-preservation. 

During their conversation, they wondered aloud if the same attention is paid to Black people who evade paying taxes as opposed to white tax dodgers before moving on to a larger discussion about the way tax law works to shield the wealth of families with generational wealth, typically white families. 

In 2023, ProPublica reported that after being gutted for nearly a decade, the infusion of cash into the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prescribed by the Inflation Reduction Act would enable it to increase the agency’s ability to perform audits on high-income earners. 

According to the IRS’ strategic operating plan, “Taxpayers earning $1 million or more were subject to an audit rate of just 0.7% in 2019 — a sharp decline from 7.2% in 2011. We will increase enforcement for high-income and high-wealth individuals to help ensure they are paying the taxes they owe.”

This is undoubtedly a good first step, but America’s tax system in general, as ProPublica also reported on, has been designed with such benefits for the wealthy that Jeff Bezos, one of the high-income earners referenced by the IRS, went years without paying taxes

On March 7, the White House released a fact sheet detailing its plans to implement tax cuts for working American families while requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share of the tax burden.

Notably, the White House’s sheet also brings attention to the fight against this initiative by the Republican Party. Regardless of their grievances, the tax code was adjusted so that corporations are required to pay at least 15% in taxes. The Biden-Harris administration notes that this will ensure billion-dollar corporations like Bezos’ Amazon won’t be allowed to forgo paying federal taxes in the future. 

The Biden-Harris administration has proposed that those who make over $100 million pay at least 25% in taxes, an increase from their current tax rate of 8%. Proportionally, they currently pay less in income taxes than occupations like firefighters or teachers. 

The administration also touted its moves to help the IRS crackdown on delinquent millionaires, which is likely what got Howard caught up with the Justice Department to begin with. Howard, meanwhile, has claimed that he has been the victim of lowball pay on a consistent basis during his career. 

As it regards the tax cuts for working Americans, the Biden-Harris administration is striking a tone that is familiar under Democratic presidents: to finance the tax cuts for the middle class, they will seek to raise taxes on the rich. 

According to the fact sheet, “President Biden’s plan will extend all middle-class tax cuts; as the President has repeatedly promised, he will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 per year. He will fully pay for these extensions with additional reforms to make the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share so that they do not add to the debt. And he opposes extending tax cuts or restoring tax breaks for those making more than $400,000 per year.”

While the idea of not paying taxes due to the American government’s refusal to provide wholesale reparations is certainly attractive, the absolute best thing that the government is going to be able to do, from a standpoint of tax collection, is going to be making the tax code more equitable for everyone, while making the rich pay what they weigh. 

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