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Warren Buffett calls for a minimum tax on the wealthy

Investor Warren Buffet arrives for the premiere of the film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" in New York September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas
Investor Warren Buffet arrives for the premiere of the film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" in New York September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas

(Reuters) - Warren Buffett, the legendary investor who changed the debate about U.S. tax reform in 2011 with a call for the rich to pay more, is now calling for minimum tax rates for millionaires.

In a New York Times editorial printed on Monday, Buffett suggested Congress move immediately to implement minimum taxes of 30 percent on incomes of $1 million to $10 million and 35 percent above that.

"A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultra rich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours," Buffett wrote.

"Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy," he added.

The new push is in keeping with the one he made in the same newspaper in August 2011, in which he decried the "coddling" of the super-rich. He used himself and his secretary as an example, noting that her tax rate was much higher than his even though her income was just a tiny fraction of what he made.

"Warren Buffett's secretary" became a political meme following that editorial, and the said secretary, Debbie Bosanek, was ultimately a guest of President Barack Obama at this year's State of the Union address.

The 2011 editorial spurred Obama to seek the implementation of what he called the "Buffett Rule," which set a 30 percent tax rate on millionaires. Opponents said it would stifle spending by the job-creating well-to-do, a notion Buffett ridiculed in the new editorial.

"So let's forget about the rich and ultra rich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased," he said. "The ultra rich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities."

Buffett, whom Forbes ranks as the world's third-richest person, is the chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, the ice-cream-to-insurance conglomerate that employs more than a quarter-million people around the world.

He acknowledged in Monday's editorial that some people like him might stop investing as they wait for Congress to act.

"In the meantime, maybe you'll run into someone with a terrific investment idea, who won't go forward with it because of the tax he would owe when it succeeds," Buffett said. "Send him my way. Let me unburden him."

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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