Elon Musk offloaded approximately $1 billion worth of Tesla stock on Tuesday, according to SEC filings. Including this most recent transaction, Musk has now sold over $11 billion of Tesla shares since November 8.
Musk says has been selling the stock to pay what he claims will be the largest individual tax bill in U.S. history. The total could come out to be over $11 billion. Tesla’s stock value has risen more than 50% in 2021, and Musk continues to exercise stock options granted through his executive compensation plan. He most recently exercised options granted in 2012 that gave him the right to purchase shares at $6.24; Tesla shares are currently trading at nearly $1,080.
The upcoming tax bill, if it is as high as anticipated, stands in stark contrast to previous years. Based on leaked IRS documents, ProPublica estimated that Musk paid a true tax rate of around 3.27% ($455 million total) between 2014 and 2018. His net worth currently stands at $279 billion, making him the world’s wealthiest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
With record taxes due, Musk has seized the opportunity to challenge the narrative that he doesn’t pay his fair share. Earlier this month, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter, “Let’s change the rigged tax code so The Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else,” in reference to Time magazine naming Musk its Person of the Year for 2021. Musk responded: “if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year.”
Top U.S. tech executives have sold at least $70 billion in shares in 2021, a record rate that represents an increase of over 30% from 2020. Musk leads the pack, but Amazon founder Jeff Bezos isn’t far behind with his $10 billion in stock sale, and Satya Nadella sold around half his Microsoft shares for around $285 million. For Nadella and Bezos, the sales will help them avoid tax hikes imposed by the state of Washington.