"Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will give most of his $44 billion in Berkshire stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, entrusting his philanthropic legacy to the only person richer than him," Bloomberg reports.
The New York Sun reports, Mr. Buffett could have let the government take its share of his estate after he dies. But just as Mr. Buffett has accumulated his vast wealth without paying much personal income tax, he has found a way to avoid the tax man in this maneuver as well, even writing in his letter to Bill and Melinda Gates that a condition of the gift is that the foundation "must continue to satisfy legal requirements qualifying my gifts as charitable and not subject to gift or other taxes."
On the estate tax, watch what Mr. Buffett does, not what he says. The Gates Foundation isn't the only recipient of his largesse--three foundations headed by Mr. Buffett's three children, Susan, Howard, and Peter, will get hundreds of millions of dollars. Tax documents show that in 2004, Peter Buffett and his wife Jennifer each took a $40,000 a year salary for what they reported was 30 hours a week each of work on the foundation.
Much like John Kerry (D-MA), Mr. Buffet is for the tax before he is against it. Unlike Mr. Kerry, who marries into money, Mr. Buffet uses the tax code to grow his wealth.