America’s Billionaires Are Cashing Out Their Stocks Like Never Before

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Think Elon Musk’s Twitter polls where he asked the public if he should dump billions in stock were just the latest troll by the world’s richest man? Think again.

America’s billionaires have sold $42.9 billion in stock this year, more than doubling their $20.2 billion total in 2020, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Their rationale is clear and calculated, even as Musk has fun playing jester.

Selling to Save

The super-rich usually hang on to stakes in the companies that made them super rich. That’s because cashing out, and realizing any capital gains, comes with a hefty tax bill. But the times are unique: stock valuations are at record highs and taxes on America’s super rich could go up when the clock strikes midnight on January 1.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a superwealth surtax of 5% on income over $10 million and 3% more if it tops $25 million. The surtax — which would take effect in 2022 and still has to make it through the Senate — applies to capital gains, meaning cashing out stock holdings would be pricier. In other words, the super-wealthy have two more weeks to save up to 8% on their tax bill. Many have been at it for months:

  • Mark Zuckerberg has sold $4.5 billion in Meta (formerly Facebook) stock this year, eight times what he dumped in 2020; his Silicon Valley brethren Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google’s founders, sold a combined $3.5 billion in stock of Alphabet (their first sale in four years).
  • Jeff Bezos, the world’s second-richest person, has sold more than $9 billion in Amazon stock while Michael Dell, founder and CEO of (what else) Dell, broke a two year selling fast to dump $500 million worth.

Across State Lines: Musk has unloaded $12.7 billion in Tesla, his first sale in five years. He also moved to Texas from California, reducing his state tax bill and swapping Carl’s Jr. for Whataburger, both of which he could compete against if he ever gets around to opening that fast food chain he now has the money for.