Tags: Warren Buffett | Coke | tax | Berkshire Hathaway

Buffett: I Won't Pay a Dime More in Taxes Than What I Have to

By John Morgan   |   Monday, 28 Apr 2014 12:31 PM

Warren Buffett says he will pay only what the law requires for personal taxes or for corporate taxes at his Berkshire Hathaway empire, but that does not mean he thinks the U.S. tax structure is perfect.

In a conversation with Fortune, he also addressed the tide of criticism stemming from Coke's lavish new option package for its executives, and offered a small hint about his successor at Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett said he is not above looking for tax breaks just because he is rich.

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"Actually, [Berkshire's] tax rate is pretty high if you look at it. But if it could be lower, I would have it lower. I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire's tax rate.

"For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit."

Buffett noted he is not the only American who is not offering up his own money to help the debt-burdened United States reduce its gigantic deficits — he said Washington, D.C., leaders are not opening up their personal purse strings, either.

"I will not pay a dime more of individual taxes than I owe, and I won't pay a dime more of corporate taxes than we owe. And that's very simple. In my own case, I offered one time to match a voluntary payment that any Senators pay, and I offered to triple any voluntary payment that [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made, but they never took me up on it."

As for the Coca-Cola multi-billion dollar executive option package that has caused considerable controversy, Buffett claimed there was little he could do to stop it despite being on the Coke board and Berkshire Hathaway being one of the company's biggest investors.

Instead of voting against the option package, Buffett, who in the past has criticized overly rich executive pay, simply did not vote.

"I think we did take a stand in abstaining. That's a very loud voice coming from Berkshire. It obviously means we don't approve of the plan," he claimed.

As for stock options at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett said he believes only the CEO should receive them — not the average employee. In making those remarks, he suggested the next CEO at his company will not be a woman.

"I actually have written — I may put it in the annual report next year — a memo to the board of directors of Berkshire as to what I think would be a sensible option plan for the CEO of Berkshire who succeeds me. And he would be — in this case it would be a he at the present time — the only one who would receive options because he would be the only one who is responsible for the overall success of the operation."

Berkshire Hathaway's much-anticipated annual meeting festivities in Omaha, Nebr., are getting underway for the main event May 3.

The reason investors hang on to every work that Buffett speaks is because he speaks plainly, with little jargon, according to the Financial Times.

"Buffett's plain speaking shows confidence, as you would expect — he has nothing to prove," the Times noted.

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