Worldwide, 3.6 million people each have more than $5 million in wealth. More than 2,600 of those people are billionaires, with a combined total wealth of $13.76 trillion. If there were an annual wealth tax on these people, a new report suggests, it could raise $2.52 trillion a year, enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, manufacture enough vaccines COVID-19 for the whole world and provide universal health care and social protection for all in low and lower middle income countries (3.6 billion people).
This figure comes from a new global wealth analysis using data from a consortium that includes the Fight Inequality Alliance, the Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and Patriotic Millionaires. The wealth tax they propose would be a graduated rate structure, the report says, with a 2% wealth tax on $5 million and above, 3% on $50 million and above, and 5% on $1 billion or more.
A more heavily progressive wealth tax structure – 2%, 5% and 10%, respectively – would bring in $3.62 trillion a year, the report said. In the United States alone, there are 1.4 million individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more, for a combined total of $28 trillion. The cost of vaccinating the world against COVID-19 has been estimated at $27.8 billion; providing universal health care and social protections to low- and lower-middle-income countries could cost an additional $440.8 billion.
These global figures are only an estimate, the report warns, as the actual levels of wealth taxation would be country-specific. Still, it’s an example of how a wealth tax — an initiative backed by politicians including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and increasingly by members of the public (71% of American voters saying they favor a tax on extreme wealth) – could raise funds to finance social protections and reduce poverty in the world.
It would also reduce the total number of multi-millionaires and billionaires, whose numbers have grown exponentially during the pandemic as wealth inequality has grown. Although they represent only 0.002% of the population, those who have 50 million dollars and more currently hold 6.33% of all the world’s wealth. In the United States, billionaires own half a billion more wealth than the bottom 60% of American society.
This report, which uses data from Forbes and Wealth X, builds on another Oxfam report from earlier this week which found that the world’s 10 richest men (including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet) have more than doubled their fortunes since the start of the pandemic.