Elon Musk does Twitter Poll, to decide if he should sell 10 percent of his Tesla stock
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and the world’s wealthiest person, asked his Twitter followers on Saturday whether he should sell 10% of his ownership in the firm, ostensibly to pay more tax. By the time the poll concluded on Sunday afternoon, 57.9% of the more than 3.5 million people who had taken part had voted “yes,” while 42.1 percent had voted “no.”
“Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock,” Musk tweeted Saturday. He said in a subsequent tweet that he’d abide by the results of the poll “whichever way it goes.”
Musk had been a vociferous opponent of a plan to tax unrealized gains on publicly traded assets for some of the country’s wealthiest people. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) proposes that if a person’s assets increase in value, even if they are not sold, the person must pay taxes on the unrealized gain. It would effectively close a tax loophole that allows billionaires to defer capital gains taxes indefinitely while still borrowing against their assets.
“Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you,” Musk said in response to a tweet criticising the concept in October.
“Whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll, It’s time for the Billionaires Income Tax,” Wyden tweeted on Saturday in response to Musk’s proposal.
It wasn’t the first time Musk had mentioned selling some Tesla stock on Saturday. At Code Conference in September, Musk informed journalist Kara Swisher that he wanted to sell a large portion of his Tesla stock options before they expired. ““I have a bunch of [stock] options that are expiring early next year, so that’s a huge block of options we’ll sell in Q4,”
Swisher inquired if the price of Tesla’s stock had surprised him. “I have gone on record and said I think [Tesla’s] stock price is too high, in my opinion,” Musk added later. “What am I supposed to do? I’m not the one making it go up.”
ProPublica journalist Jesse Eisinger pointed out on Twitter that the third tweet in Musk’s Saturday thread — “Note, I do not take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere. I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock”— appeared to confirm the news site’s reporting on how the ultra-wealthy avoid paying income taxes.
“Thank you for confirming our story: That for the ultra wealthy income taxes are essentially voluntary,” Eisinger tweeted, noting that Musk had previously called the story “misleading.”
Musk had yet to respond to the poll results as of Sunday afternoon. If he does, we’ll update this post.