As talk of a “billionaire’s tax” continues, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Saturday to ask people if he should sell 10% of his stock in the electric-car maker in order to pay taxes.
“Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock,” Musk tweeted, “Do you support this?” Musk, one of the world’s richest people, included a Yes or No poll in the tweet, saying, “I will abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes.”
“Note, I do not take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere,” Musk added. “I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock.”
Musk’s remarks come as Democrats have wrangled recently over a proposal to fund a large social-safety-net bill by taxing billionaires’ unrealized capital gains, or the increase in value of unsold assets they hold, like stocks, bonds and real estate.
In June, investigative site ProPublica got hold of a cache of IRS documents and reported that Musk and other moguls, by structuring their pay to avoid income, built their wealth into the high billions while paying almost nothing in federal taxes. The activity wasn’t against the law, ProPublica said, but the tax records reveal how the Uber-wealthy minimize taxes, sometimes by taking out loans using their stock holdings as collateral. By comparison, wage earners live primarily off their paychecks, which are taxed as income.
At the time of this writing, 55.4% of respondents to Musk’s poll had voted Yes, and 44.6% had voted No, with 22 hours left for the poll.
Musk doesn’t accept direct messages through his Twitter account. Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
CNET’s Laura Hautala contributed to this report.