Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett hinted in his annual letter to shareholders that the holding company’s nearly 18,000-page tax return may merit the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Referring to the people who work with the operating managers, he noted, “Equally important, however, are the 23 men and women who work with me at our corporate office (all on one floor, which is the way we intend to keep it!). This group efficiently deals with a multitude of SEC and other regulatory requirements and files a 17,839-page Federal income tax return—hello, Guinness!—as well as state and foreign returns.”
Even at that length, though, Berkshire's tax return would be dwarfed by General Electric's, which reportedly runs about 57,000 pages, so it probably won't end up in the record books, for this year at least.
Buffett’s tax policies have generated considerable attention in the past year after he wrote a New York Times editorial calling for changes in the Tax Code to tax the “super-rich” at a higher rate to ensure they don’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries (see Buffett Says Tax Code is ‘Coddling the Super-Rich’). The editorial led to the “so-called” Buffett Rule, which President Obama cited in his State of the Union address and included in his 2013 budget plan. However, Buffett has also been criticized for the disputes that his company has gotten into with the Internal Revenue Service over the back taxes that the IRS says it owes.
“Investing is often described as the process of laying out money now in the expectation of receiving more money in the future,” Buffett wrote in his shareholder letter Saturday. “At Berkshire we take a more demanding approach, defining investing as the transfer to others of purchasing power now with the reasoned expectation of receiving more purchasing power—after taxes have been paid on nominal gains—in the future. More succinctly, investing is forgoing consumption now in order to have the ability to consume more at a later date.”
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