An investigation by ProPublica found that more than a dozen billionaires received federal stimulus checks that were meant to help struggling Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The outlet said it went through IRS records and found 18 billionaires and hundreds of wealthy people received CARES Act payments meant for taxpayers who made less than $75,000 a year, or less than $150,000 for a married couple.
One of the billionaires named by ProPublica is George Soros, a hedge fund tycoon and philanthropist with a Forbes-estimated net worth of $8.6 billion as of Friday. However, a representative for Soros — who did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment — told ProPublica, “George returned his stimulus check. He certainly didn’t request one!” The outlet reported that a rep for his son Robert Soros indicated that he too returned his stimulus check.
A supporter of progressive politics, George has publicly pushed for higher taxes for the rich, as ProPublica pointed out. The outlet acknowledged that his Open Society Foundations have donated to ProPublica, which describes itself as “a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.”
Also listed are Ira Rennert, founder of the Renco Group, and Glen Taylor, a businessman who agreed to sell his ownership stake in the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx basketball teams to former baseball player Alex Rodriguez and tech entrepreneur Marc Lore for a reported $1.5 billion earlier this year.
According to Forbes, Rennert is worth $3.7 billion, while Taylor is worth $2.8 billion. Reps for Renner and Taylor did not immediately respond to ProPublica’s requests for comment, and PEOPLE’s attempts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.
ProPublica reported that the billionaires who received the checks were able to qualify because they fell under the annual income threshold due to business write-offs and deductions.
“The wealthy taxpayers who received the stimulus checks got them because they came in under the government’s income threshold. In fact, they reported way less taxable income than that — even hundreds of millions less — after they used business write-offs to wipe out their gains,” the outlet reported.
“The ultrawealthy have other tax advantages. Many can tap a particularly generous vein of deductions: businesses they own,” they added. “These can wipe out all of their income, even for years to come, unlike other deductions, like those for charitable giving. Certain industries, like real estate or oil and gas, are a well-known source of tax benefits that can generate paper losses even for a successful business.”
Taxpayers who made less than $75,000 were able to receive a $1,200 check, while married couples who earned less than $150,000 could receive $2,400.
The report comes amid increased calls for billionaires to be taxed on their investment gains.
“Unless Congress acts now, billionaires will continue to be allowed by Congress to pay far less than their fair share of taxes,” a group of 250 millionaires said in a letter to congressional officials this week.
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In the letter — written by the groups Americans for Tax Fairness, the Patriotic Millionaires and Responsible Wealth — the millionaires said that Americans “have a rare opportunity to reform our broken tax code that has for far too long given the very wealthiest ways to avoid paying their share.”
The pandemic has already been financially kind to the uber-wealthy in the United States — according to the Institute for Policy Studies, billionaires in the U.S. got 62 percent richer and were up $1.8 trillion as of August.