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Businesses and millionaires are moving from Democratic to Republican states. Elon Musk, Tesla’s and SpaceX’s CEO, for example, packed his bags and headed to Texas, leaving behind the California state tax. On the other hand, Goldman Sachs is seriously considering moving key operations to Florida with the intention of saving money: lower operating costs and less taxes. But there was one billionaire who has long been waging this battle against high tax burdens. And that’s the New Yorker Tom Golisano.
The entrepreneur is known for his success with the Rochester-based Paychex company and for running for governor of New York three times. All three times he failed; but he also had a certain reward, making policy through the rhetoric of tax reduction.
In February 2020, Forbes magazine published an article on the billionaire. The piece reviews several of the occasions in which Golisano fought against tax burdens, defending his wealth from the big tax regimes.
The same businessman revealed to Forbes that, after leaving New York and moved to the state of Florida, his monetary benefits were incredible, as he saved about $13,800 per day, which is an impressive figure.
In 2009, Golisano moved his permanent residence to Florida to reduce his income taxes. “It saved me $13,800. Per day,” says Golisano. “And when his time comes (Golisano is 78), his family will also benefit from the lack of estate taxes in Florida, especially compared to New York’s 16 percent rate,” reads the Forbes article.
A harder fight against taxes
As mentioned in the magazine, Golisano really hates taxes, and not because he is a “cheap millionaire”, as he himself explains how he has donated his income to charity for years.
“With $1.2 billion in income over almost two decades, Golisano claims to have paid $211 million in taxes and donated $255 million to charity over almost two decades. Three children’s hospitals, two in New York and one in Florida, bear his name and he has also been generous to the Special Olympics,” the article states.
What Golisano argues is irrefutable: he prefers to choose how to spend his money instead of having the government decide for him. That is why he is willing to take drastic measures -such as changing states, running for governor or engaging in legal battles against cities- to try to reduce his tax burdens as much as possible.
For example, in 2010, Golisano won a multi-year court battle against the city of Mendon in New York. The billionaire was able to move one of his properties – a 9,600-square-foot house on 38 acres of land – from a $6,000,000 property assessment to $1,900,000. Less property value, less taxes.
Another example: when he ran for governor, on all three occasions, his main promises were to lower local property taxes.
There was a somewhat comical episode in 2018. Golisano had arrived at his vacation home on Lake Canandaigua, south of Bristol in New York, valued at $6,000,000. And, to his surprise, a tragedy occurred: passing the entrance to the house with his wife, former tennis star Monica Seles, he saw a hundred geese damaging the five-acre lawn.
“It was terrifying! My whole garden was covered,” Golisano told Forbes. “Do you know anything about the geese? Each goose defecates two pounds a day. I pay $140,000 in taxes a year, and I can’t use my yard because the geese have pooped all over it,” he added.
What did the billionaire do? Well, instead of calling a gardening service or hiring a company to take care of the geese, Golisano decided to use them as an excuse to give the government less money – that is, to pay fewer and lower taxes.
Arguing that he did everything he could to get the geese off his property -and tired of failing at it so many times-, Golisano said that he wasn’t going to pay his property taxes until the government took care of getting the geese off his property.
He withheld about $140,000 in the city of South Bristol, where his house was located, and outlined that “the geese were damaging the value of his property and that the government had a responsibility to get rid of the waterfowl or reduce its taxes,” according to Forbes.
This was another battle that Golisano waged against what he considered an unfair tax system and regime.
Golisano, who belongs to the Republican Party, resents the ideas of the Democrats
Another thing that bothers Golisano, besides taxes, are the politicians, especially the Democrats.
“I started with Paychex with $3,000 and a few credit cards and created 15,000 jobs. She never did anything but live off the public and do I have to listen to her say I’m not paying my fair share? I wish someone could define what a fair share is,” the businessman said of Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. He was fiercely critical of her, along with Bernie Sanders, in the interview to Forbes.
The billionaire is also concerned about the Democrats’ more radical ideas, “When has socialism ever given us a good standard of living,” he asked in the above-quoted article.
In any case, Golisano’s case is perfect for explaining why big companies and billionaires are going to Republican states with more flexible tax regimes: as the headline of this article says, there are 13,800 reasons every day.