Warren Buffett to CNBC: Giving Money to Charity Isn't a Tax Dodge


Warren Buffett did a taped interview in San Francisco with CNBC's Becky Quick last night. Buffett is in that city for today's fund-raiser on behalf of Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential bid.


Becky showed some excerpts from her taped chat on Squawk Box earlier today.

In this clip, Buffett rejects suggestions from critics that his support of the nation's estate tax is hypocritical because he is sheltering his own enormous wealth by giving it to charity.

Becky live from San Francisco: This has been a huge issue. It's something that really gets people fired up, when you start talking about taxes, because nobody likes paying taxes. The Wall Street Journal, in its editorial pages yesterday, brought up something from Whoopi Goldberg on The View, where Whoopi Goldberg made the comment that, hey, if I've paid the taxes once, why should I have to pay them again just because I die? It kicked off huge debate. The Wall Street Journal bringing Buffett's name into the fray on this one as well because he has been a strong proponent of keeping the estate tax, or the death tax, depending on which side you take on the whole thing. The Journal actually came out and said Buffett was sheltering his money by giving it away to charities. We caught up with Buffett and here's what he had to say on that issue:

Becky on tape: First off, I just want to clear up something that Joe (Kernen) and I were discussing earlier today. He's been talking a little bit about the estate tax and Whoopi Goldberg and we got into a little bit of a dispute. One of the things we had talked back and forth about was whether when you give your money to charity, is that a tax shelter? What do you say?

Buffett: Well, I'm really a little perplexed that somebody that might be putting ten dollars in a collection plate this Sunday would be doing it as a tax dodge. I think a tax shelter is something where you design a transaction so you end up keeping the money and somehow you get a deduction or something. (Laughs.)

If giving money away is a tax dodge then we've probably got maybe 200 million tax dodgers in the United States.

Becky: OK, there were a couple of emails that came in that people that said if you think the government should be able to tax more money, why don't you just give your money away to the government instead of charity.

Buffett: Well, that's a choice and it's an option that... If I had to give it to a single individual, or make some young Buffett a multi-billionnaire, or give it to the government, I'd absolutely give it to the government. I think that on balance the Gates Foundation, my daughter's foundation, my two sons' foundations, will do a better job with lower adminsitrative costs and better selection of beneficiaries than the government.

But, if somebody wants to propose taxing charitable contributions, good luck, (laughs) because I don't think any Senator or Congressman is going to be willing to sponsor that legislation. You can dodge all the taxes you want by giving away all your money, and I'm sure that the government will approve and certainly the charities will approve.


In an earlier clip, Buffett explains why he doesn't pay much attentionto the Federal Reserve's interest rate moves.

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com