In announcing his move from Seattle to Miami, Jeff Bezos has become the latest of a long procession of prominent business icons and celebrities to abandon blue state for red state America. As the man who built the trillion dollar tech behemoth Amazon, he is now the wealthiest American to flee to a low tax state.
There is a cautionary tale here for blue state America — which day after day is being bled to death by this steady stream of migration of millions of people and tens of billions of capital to red states.
Washington state was, until recently, the only blue state with no income tax. For many years it also had no inheritance or capital gains tax. This light taxation on business investment and income contributed to Washington becoming one of the fastest growing states and a mecca for world-class businesses a list that includes Microsoft, Amazon, Costco and Starbucks.
Being one of nine states with a zero income tax, was in many ways Washington’s greatest comparative advantages – especially because neighboring California and Oregon had among the highest income taxes — both over 10%.
But that’s all ended. Progressives in Seattle took charge and started their relentless “soak the rich” campaign. This started with the state adopting a death tax that can reach 19% for millionaires and billionaires. That’s one of the highest rates in the nation – all for the privilege of dying in Washington. That is something Jeff Bezos has decided he will not do.
Then last year the state adopted a 6% capital gains tax even though the state’s constitution prohibits an income tax. There may be no one on the planet that has more capital gains than Mr. Bezos. And now the legislature is debating a 1% annual wealth tax.
Who do you think they had in mind for that?
So you answer the question: Is it just the sunny weather that is driving Mr. Bezos to flee?
Bezos stated in his announcement that he has “amazing memories” of Seattle where he has lived for three decades and built Amazon.
He never mentioned the tax advantages of residing in Florida, and almost no one in the media — not CNN, The New York Times, or CNBC mentioned the tax advantages of this relocation. I don’t know anything about his personal finances, but he has formed one of the largest family foundations in the world with multi-billions of dollars of his wealth that now will forever escape taxation.
The Amazon founder was smart enough to stash billions into a family foundation — money that will permanently escape taxation. And he has started a giant charitable foundation that will collect a big chunk of his wealth and never pay taxes. But even if only a fraction of his money he retains and passes on to his family, Bezos will save billions of dollars by moving to Florida with no income, no capital gains, AND no death tax. He wouldn’t be one of the world’s business minds in world history, if he didn’t take all that into account.
Bezos’s politics swing liberal, but almost nobody forks over more money to the tax man than they have to. Tax avoidance is one of the world’s oldest businesses — and a grand American tradition dating back to the Boston Tea Party.
Washington state may learn a painful lesson. If you sock it to the rich, the rich get out of dodge. Bezos declared that Seattle will “always have my heart.”
But not his wallet.