More than a dozen billionaires including Blackwater founder Erik Prince and financier George Soros, along with the owners of a number of pro sports franchises, all received federal stimulus checks meant to go to middle-class earners to relieve economic pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to IRS data.
At least 18 billionaires received the funds due to special tax loopholes that let them simply declare minimal incomes, DailyMail.com reported Wednesday, noting further that IRS data indicates there were a number of problems with the system that the federal government used to make payment determinations.
The payouts were made to the gaggle of billionaires despite a $75,000-a-year limit after they used “clever accounting tools to show negative income,” the outlet reported.
As part of a massive COVID relief measure passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump, the IRS began sending out $1,200 checks to individuals who earned less than $75,000 a year in March 2020. The tax agency issued a second check of $600 in December 2020 and a third for $1,400 in April 2021.
According to an analysis by ProPublica, Soros — who is worth around $8.6 billion and has stumped for higher taxes on wealthy individuals — was sent two of three checks worth $2,400, which he returned.
“George returned his stimulus check. He certainly didn’t request one!” said a spokesman in a statement to the media outlet, who added that Soros’ son, Robert Soros, returned his checks as well.
The ProPublica analysis discovered that 270 taxpayers who had a collective $5.7 billion in income last year qualified for checks because they were legally allowed to deduct large amounts from their tax bill thereby listing negative incomes. At least 18 of them were billionaires.
There were dozens more millionaires in the mix as well including the former CEO of Lehman Brothers, Dick Fuld, who is worth around $250 million.
After the company went under in 2008, Fuld was named to head Matrix Investment Partners, and the losses that the company experienced were a major reason why he was able to report negative income and receive a stimulus check, according to ProPublica.
When he was asked to comment by the outlet, Fuld reportedly responded, “I’m not interested. Thank you.”
Prince, who is a vehement supporter of former President Donald Trump and whose sister, Betsy DeVos, served all four years as Trump’s education secretary, also got a check although through his private security firm and family money he is worth an estimated $2 billion.
In 2018 before tax deductions, Prince listed $5.8 million in income while Blackwater secured hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts.
ProPublica also found that Ira Rennert, an 87-year-old industrialist and investor who is worth some $3.7 billion, also received COVID stimulus payments. His home in the Hamptons, Fair Field, is nearly one-and-a-half acres in size — around 62,000 square feet — and is listed as the largest private home in the U.S.
With 29 bedrooms and a 91-foot-long dining room situated along a beachfront, Crain’s estimates the home would fetch north of $500 million if it was put up for sale. Property taxes alone for the property run $40,000 per month.
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