While analysts say ‘tax benefit would be huge’, SEC filing does not disclose the name of charity
Tesla’s filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed on February 14 that from November 19 to November 29 last year, a total of 5,044,000 shares in the world’s most valuable automaker was donated to a charity by its chief executive, Elon Musk.
Based on the closing prices of Tesla shares on the five days that he donated the stock, the donation was worth $5.74bn. The charity’s name was not disclosed in the filing.
Data acquired from the Chronicle of Philanthropy shows that after Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates last year, the donation ranks Musk as America’s second-biggest donor. After polling Twitter users about offloading 10% of his stake in the electric-car maker in early November, the information coincided with the billionaire selling $16.4bn worth of shares.
Due to his exercise of stock options set to expire this year, he said on Twitter that he would pay more than $11bn in taxes in 2021.
When Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called on wealthy people to pay more taxes, he also traded them barbs. Since shares donated to charity are not subject to capital gains tax, as they would be if sold, analysts have said that there would be a tax benefit for Musk for gifting Tesla stock.
An associate fellow, who studies tax policy, at the Institute for Policy Studies, Bob Lord said:
“His tax benefit would be huge. He’d save between 40% and 50% of the $5.7bn in tax, depending on whether he could take the deduction against his California income and he’d avoid the gains tax he would have to pay if he sold the stock.”
Perhaps Musk contributed the stock to intermediaries such as “donor-advised funds”, not entirely to charitable groups, according to Lord.
Tesla did not immediately comment.
So far, Musk’s public philanthropy gestures have trailed other billionaires’. While Warren Buffett and George Soros had given away more than 20% of their wealth by early September, according to the business magazine Forbes, Musk and the Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, have donated less than 1% of their net worth.
According to the official website of the Musk Foundation, chaired by Musk, grants offered are for the “development of safe artificial intelligence to benefit humanity” among other causes.
Individuals who could design a technology to help in eliminating carbon from the atmosphere were last year offered $100m in prize money by Musk and the foundation. Schools in Cameron County, Texas, the location of a Space X rocket launch site, would receive his donation of $20m, he said last year, and $10m to the city of Brownsville.
He has also considered more ambitious philanthropy goals. He said on Twitter in 2021:
“If [the United Nations World Food Programme] can describe … exactly how $6 billion will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.”
This was his response to a plea for a donation from the executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley.
Twitter users were last year in January asked by Musk “ways to donate money that really make a difference (way harder than it seems)”.