Macro fund manager John Burbank of Passport Capital joked that Warren Buffett is “basically a tax evader” at the SALT Conference and attendees started clapping and laughing.
His argument is not that Buffett is doing anything illegal or anything like that, but that a lot of his success is in investing in a way that results in the lowest tax bill.
The discussion took place when fellow panelist billionaire Leon Cooperman of Omega Advisors brought up the Oracle of Omaha’s returns after tax.
“I’m not a publicist for Warren Buffett, but when I keep hearing people talk about Buffett’s record, nobody mentions his tax efficiency…
He continued: “About 30 years ago, one of his annual reports went through a hypothetical example of being a terrific money manager if you put the every year’s hot stock and made 15% in that stock, sold it and went into the next hot stock in the following year versus owning the same stock at a 15% year for thirty years. He had thousands of times differential after tax. And so I think when the New York Times writes an article saying Buffett underperformed….somebody ought to examine his record after tax returns versus the assumed after tax return on the S&P and the return differential is phenomenal.”
“I think he’s not going to do it though. I think he’s basically a tax evader,” Burbank said as audience members laughed and clapped.
“I think there’s nobody more sophisticated in the tax code if that’s what your saying,” Cooperman responded.
“I just hate when he tells you to pay taxes,” Burbank added to more cheers and laughs from the crowd.
“That’s a different concept. If you’re asking me if he’s become somewhat hypocritical. I don’t want to go there.
“What I’m saying is his returns after tax are phenomenal. And nobody talks about the fact that he’s tax efficient.”
NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.