NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Given his extensive interviews and widely read op-ed pieces, it's clear that Warren Buffett is never against sharing his opinion with the public. In many cases, however, he appears willing to let his wallet do the talking.
This week in a letter to Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.), billionaire investor Warren Buffett stated that he had made nearly $63 million last year. What's more, the Nebraska native, who has recently come out as a vocal proponent of tax increases for the super wealthy, also remarked that his federal taxes totaled less than $7 million, or 17.4%. These tax figures were reflective of those Buffett had mentioned in his most recent
New York Times
op-ed piece, "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich."
While this news was enough to steal headlines, it has immediately generated criticism due largely to the fact that Buffett has yet to publicly release his official tax return.
This hesitation, however, does not appear to be a sign of unwillingness. On the contrary, in a letter sent to the congressman, the Oracle of Omaha explained that he would be willing to make this information public. However, he is waiting until he can find fellow members of the ultra-wealthy who would be willing to do the same. Buffett feels that this would be useful for the ongoing debate over tax reform.
Following up this stipulation, Buffett offered a challenge to Huelskamp. If he is able to successfully convince another wealthy individual to release his or her tax returns at the same time as him Buffett would, "be willing to have a pre-release wager with anyone who wishes for any sum that they wish," that his figures are exactly those stated in his op-ed piece.
It will be interesting to see if this challenge goes anywhere. This tax-related wager is not the first time that Buffett has used a bet to make a point.
Long an opponent of the fees charged by hedge funds, in 2008, the
chairman threw his hat into the ring against New York-based asset manager Protégé Partners on a bet that, over a 10-year span, a low-cost index fund linked to the
could beat out the average returns from five hedge funds chosen by the company.
The fund Buffett chose to represent his side of the bet is the
Vanguard S&P 500 Admiral Fund
Three years into the bet, Buffett is trailing Protégé. However, as
noted, the investor fund, which managed to lead the hedge funds in 2010, has closed the gap by the first half of 2011.
Both parties have put up big money for this bet and the winner will receive a zero-coupon Treasury bond valued at $1 million that will be donated to their chosen charitable organization.
This past summer, it was announced that Buffett had made another bet, this time taking aim at the U.S. employment picture. Wagering $1, the investor bet Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, that by election time 2012, the unemployment rate will fall below 8%.
In an interview with
, Buffett remarked that his success in this bet will rest on whether the housing industry will be able to bounce back.
Although Buffett has typically preferred to place his money on "sure things," this has not prevented him from taking seemingly risky bets. His crisis-era investments in
and his most recent multi-billion dollar investment in
Bank of America
are prime examples.
The investor likely faces plenty of doubters in regard to his alternative wagers as well. As with his other investments, however, time will ultimately tell whether or not he comes out on top.
Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.
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At the time of publication, Dion Money Management did not any of the equities mentioned.