Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gates on tax, giving his kids only $10m - and still doing the dishes

"Mr Gates said that he was "one of those rare people who is actually for taxes" and that the last time he was asked to pay tax the total amount equated to $US6 billion taken from his account".

"One of those rare people who is actually for taxes": Bill Gates. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates says that if governments want to tax Microsoft and other tech giants more they should just legislate for it to occur.

Speaking on a special edition of ABC TV's Q&A filmed at UNSW on Tuesday night, Mr Gates fielded a number of questions from audience members, with topics ranging from aid to technology.

On the topic of tech giants being accused of setting up tax avoidance schemes, Mr Gates said he was "one of those rare people who is actually for taxes". He said he has paid a total of $US6 billion in tax.

"I feel like the services I get from the government are extremely worthwhile," Mr Gates said. "And all those tech companies as far as I know are absolutely following all the rules."


Because he believed the companies followed the rules as they stood, he said if somebody wanted to further tax large companies they "should change the rules".

"I think it's great that that debate is taking place, but it's not incumbent on those companies to take shareholder money and pay huge amounts that aren't required," Mr Gates said.

"If people want taxes at certain levels great, set them at those levels; those companies will be glad to comply to any of those rules."

Foreign aid

On a separate topic, when asked for his thoughts on a book which argues that foreign aid has harmed Africa and it should be phased out, Mr Gates said that it promoted "evil".

Written by Dambisa Moyo, The New York Times bestseller Dead Aid offers proposals for developing countries to finance development, instead of relying on foreign aid.

The Financial Times summarised the book's argument as follows: "Limitless development assistance to African governments, [the author] argues, has fostered dependency, encouraged corruption and ultimately perpetuated poor governance and poverty".

Mr Gates said the book had not helped in his aim for governments to increase their foreign aid spend. He added that the author "didn't know much about aid and what aid was doing".

"I think that that book actually did damage generosity of rich world countries," Mr Gates said. "People have excused various [foreign aid] cutbacks because of it," he added.

Mr Gates said if one was to objectively look at what foreign aid had been able to achieve then they "would never accuse it of creating a dependency".

"Having children not die is not creating a dependency, having children not be so sick they can't go to school, not having enough nutrition so their brains don't develop. That is not a dependency. That's an evil thing and books like that - they're promoting evil," he said.

Money to children

Mr Gates was also quizzed on whether giving a reported $US10 million to each of his four children meant that he had lost perspective of how much money was worth.

He said he had "absolutely" lost perspective of a number of things in life.

"I haven't mowed the lawn for a long time," Mr Gates joked. "I forget what it's like. I do wash the dishes every night, so there are certain rituals that are worth maintaining."

He said he didn't want to give his children too much money because he wanted to give them "some freedom to pick what they" wanted to do in their lives.

"I think a kid should grow up knowing that they're going to have to make their own way in terms of finding work and that they won't be giving out sums of money or just have all the money they'll need," he said.

"I do think that having kids receive large sums of wealth actually has been more negative for them than say positive, particularly if their friends think that, they think that."

twitter This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

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