Mark Cuban says millionaire's tax is 'a great problem to have'

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramSeptember 22, 2011 

Mark Cuban doesn't have any problem paying his fair share of taxes.

In fact, the more the better.

His advice to others: "Go out there and get rich. Get so obnoxiously rich that when that tax bill comes, your first thought will be to choke on how big a check you have to write," the owner of the Dallas Mavericks wrote recently on blog maverick, the mark cuban weblog. "Your 2nd thought will be 'what a great problem to have,' and your 3rd should be a recognition that in paying your taxes, you are helping to support millions of Americans that are not as fortunate as you."

Cuban's comments come as taxpayers nationwide are talking about President Obama's proposed tax designed to make sure those who earn more than $1 million a year don't pay a lower tax rate than middle-income households.

Cuban's opinion is not shared by all, especially those who say the president's proposal creates "class warfare."

State Sen. Dan Patrick, a staunch Republican and conservative talk show host, said Obama's plan simply isn't the right move.

"The solution is not to tax the wealthy, but to create more wealth to tax," said Patrick, of Houston. "Taxing the wealthy only impacts job creation in a negative way.

"As people who have the wherewithal to invest, grow and start new businesses, they will not do so if they are taxed on their success."

Obama's plan would impact the top 0.3 percent of U.S. wage earners, according to the White House, which has said that more than 20,000 people earning more than $1 million a year in 2009 paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes.

"All I'm saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible," Obama said. "We shouldn't get a better deal than ordinary families get."

In 1998, David Minor sold a landscaping business he had started more than 20 years earlier as a college student. It had 250 employees and $11.5 million in annual revenue at the time, so the Fort Worth native says it's "a safe assumption" that he cleared more than $1 million on the deal.

"It felt like when I sold my business, I was taxed fairly," he says today -- but with an important qualifier. "Most of it was capital gains," he noted, which at the time carried a maximum 21.2 percent tax rate on assets held at least a year, according to the Tax Policy Center. (The top rate is now 15 percent.)

Obama has proposed an unspecified rate for millionaires that is "at least the same tax rate as middle-class households." Today's top rate on individuals is 35 percent, and on average taxpayers reporting at least $1 million in taxable income paid 24.6 percent in federal income taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Minor isn't thrilled at the thought of paying higher tax rates, or seeing capital gains taxed at higher rates.

"People out there building a business" might have a big year and top $1 million in earnings. "But what about when they have a 2008 and 2009?" he says of the years of the financial crisis. It's the earnings from the good years that get an enterprise through the lean years.

As for sharply boosting the capital gains tax rate -- bad idea, he says.

"These aren't loopholes. They're incentives to build businesses," Minor argues. "You never want to disincentive that."

He and Fort Worth financial advisor Dave Diesslin share a common view: Wealthy Americans are willing to pay higher taxes, but not if they think the money is being wasted.

The wealthy "wouldn't mind if their higher taxes were going to reduce the national debt, rather than being sent out in some income redistribution plan," says Diesslin, who started his firm in 1980. "We want the country to thrive again, but we don't want to get there by dividing the country," he says.

Houston-based Farouk Shami - a hair-care millionaire who unsuccessfully ran for Texas governor as a Democrat last year - said he doesn't believe Obama's plan is the right one. But he has no problem paying his share.

"The happiest day of my life is when I pay taxes," he said. "It means I made a lot of money."

Shami is a Palestinian-American immigrant known for developing BioSilk products and the popular CHI flat iron. His bid to become Texas' governor last year was the first statewide office he has sought and he spent millions of dollars of his own money on the race.

He said the right way to equalize tax payments is to create essentially a 15 percent flat tax on everything. And the best way to boost the economy is also to create jobs and bring back jobs that were sent overseas, he said.

"This is politics," he said. "If taxing me more is the answer, I'll be glad to pay. But that's not the answer."

Cuban's theory is that everyone should make as much money as they can and pay their taxes and employ and train other people. The more money a person has, the bigger impact they can have on their community. And the bigger their company, the more people who can be hired, reducing the need for government help.

"In these times of 'The Great Recession,' we shouldn't be trying to shift the benefits of wealth behind some curtain," Cuban wrote. "We should be celebrating and encouraging people to make as much money as they can. Profits equal tax money. While some people might find it distasteful to pay taxes, I don't.

"I find it Patriotic."

(Staff writer Jim Fuquay contributed to this report.)

To read more, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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