14-year-old Warren Buffett’s first tax return shows he was making bank even as a teen

He started young.
He started young.
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s road to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest people began with a newspaper route in northwest Washington, D.C.—a job he meticulously documented and paid taxes on in 1944.

The Berkshire Hathaway CEO, today worth more than $75 billion, provided his first federal income-tax return to the PBS NewsHour. The document offers insight into how the investing legend began amassing wealth even as a teenager.

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According to the return, Buffett paid $7 in taxes on $592.50 of income in 1944. He also declared $228 in interest and dividend income.

Translated into 2017 dollars, that’s $8,221.18 in income and $3,163.59 in investments—not bad for 14 years of age.

On the second page of the document, clearly typed by hand, Buffett also tracked his expenses: $10 for repairing a watch, and $35 he filed under “Bicycle -Misc.”

As a multibillionaire, his returns would become more complex, as Buffett revealed last October. He made the information public in response to then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump assertion that “Warren Buffett took a massive deduction” using a tax-loss carryforward. Buffett issued a press release to counter Trump’s claim. It also noted his initial 1944 tax payment:

My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931…The total charitable contributions I made during the year were $2,858,057,970, of which more than $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be. Tax law properly limits charitable deductions…I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944… (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward.

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