But if a controversial new tax proposal passes, his tax bill could soar even higher – and seriously erode his $US106.3 billion fortune.
Mr Gates – the world’s second-richest person behind Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, according to Forbes – is one of several billionaires who have slammed US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Speaking with New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook Conference yesterday, Mr Gates was asked about the Democrats’ tax proposal.
Under the original plan, households with a net worth of $US50 million to $1 billion would be hit with a 2 per cent wealth tax, while those over $1 billion would be stung by a 3 per cent bill.
However, Ms Warren recently suggested doubling that figure to 6 per cent for billion-dollar-plus households.
“I’m all for super-progressive tax systems,” Mr Gates explained at the conference, according to the BBC.
“I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine.”
But he joked Ms Warren’s proposal would leave him $100 billion out of pocket.
“But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over. Sorry, I’m just kidding,” he said.
“So you really want the incentive system to be there and you can go a long ways without threatening that.
“I happen to believe something in the middle (of the two parties) … I think you can make the estate tax higher; you could even take people who have sat on huge gains for say 10 years, and say OK, you should create a taxation event there.
“I think just by treating capital income the same as labour income, that goes a very long distance.”
Mr Gates may have been joking about his $100 billion tax bill, but it was described as “duplicitous” by The Atlantic.
“As I write this, Bill Gates is worth about $106.8 billion (just so you can compare that figure with your own bank balance more easily, it’s $106,800,000,000),” reporter Ian Bogost writes.
“Recall Gates’s retort: ‘When you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math over what I have left over’. This is a duplicitous way to talk about Warren’s proposal, because taxing $100 billion out of $106.8 billion would amount to a 94 per cent tax; Warren has proposed an annual 3 per cent wealth tax on assets over $1 billion.
“A 3 per cent tax on $100 billion in wealth is $3 billion.”
Mr Gates said he would be willing to meet with the presidential hopeful to learn more about the plan, but said he was unsure she would be willing to “sit down with somebody who has large amounts of money”.
His comments sparked a back-and-forth between the two via Twitter, with Ms Warren accepting Mr Gates’ offer of a meeting.
I'm always happy to meet with people, even if we have different views. @BillGates, if we get the chance, I'd love to explain exactly how much you'd pay under my wealth tax. (I promise it's not $100 billion.) https://t.co/m6G20hDNaV
Ms Warren’s proposal has also been criticised by other elites, including JP Morgan head Jamie Dimon.
However, earlier this year a group of super-wealthy Americans wrote an open letter pressuring candidates to introduce a wealth tax.
In June, Mr Gates also made headlines regarding his wealth after opening up about his “greatest mistake ever” — missing the boat on the opportunity Android ultimately seized.
“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets,” Mr Gates said, according to The Verge.
“So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform.
“That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 per cent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom.”
Mr Gates said that failure was worth a fortune.
“There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G to company M,” The Verge reported Mr Gates as saying.