Remember how billionaire Warren Buffett went on and on last year about how his tax rate is too low? Well, now House Republicans have devised a new convenient way for him to donate more to the Treasury. They even named the bill after him: the Buffett Rule Act.
The legislation, approved in the House on Wednesday and heading for an uncertain fate in the Senate, creates a checkbox on tax forms allowing taxpayers to make donations above their normal tax liability for debt reduction.
The original Obama-backed Buffett Rule bill, which failed in the Senate last April, would have required top earners to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
"If Warren Buffett and others like him truly feel they're not paying enough in taxes, they can use the Buffett Rule Act to put their money where their mouth is and voluntarily send in more to pay down the national debt, rather than changing the entire tax code to inflict more job-killing tax hikes on hard-working Americans," said Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who wrote the bill.
"The Buffett Rule Act is a common sense alternative to President Obama's divisive class warfare calls for higher taxes, and it allows Warren Buffett and others like him to voluntarily donate more of their money to pay down our national debt if that is what they're really interested in doing," he adds.
Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said there was "nothing wrong with this bill except the label." The bill, he said, has "zero to do with the Buffett rule. It has everything to do with the absolute refusal of Republicans to face the basic issue," the level of taxes that the wealthy pay.
The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said the bill offered a simple way for people concerned about the debt to contribute. Now, he said, people must either send a separate check or money order to the Bureau of Public Debt or go online to that website and use a credit card.
He cited Joint Committee of Taxation estimates that the bill would reduce the public debt by $135 million over 10 years.
Donations to pay down the national debt are tax deductible under current law.
The IRS already has a checkbox on its income tax form for making a $3 contribution to the presidential election campaign fund.
Exit question: Will concerned millionaires and billionaires (i.e. the Buffetts of America) utilize the new bill?
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.