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Elon Musk asked in Twitter poll if he should sell Tesla stock to pay taxes. People said ‘Yes’

Elon Musk during a news conference in Chicago in 2018.

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk should sell 10% of his stock in the electric-car maker he founded in order to pay taxes, according to the results of a poll he posted to Twitter on Saturday. Nearly 58% of the more than 3.5 million people who took part in the poll voted for the stock sale by the time the poll closed on Sunday.

Musk said Saturday he would honor the results of the poll, which came amid continuing discussions of a “billionaire’s tax.” Amid the attention garnered by the online poll over the weekend, Musk changed this Twitter name to “Lorde Edge,” which itself became a trending topic on the social network on Monday.

“Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock,” Musk tweeted, “Do you support this?” Musk, one of the world’s richest people, included a Yes or No poll in the tweet, saying, “I will abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes.”

“Note, I do not take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere,” Musk added. “I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock.”

Musk’s remarks come as Democrats have been wrangling over a proposal to fund a large social-safety-net bill by taxing billionaires’ unrealized capital gains, or the increase in value of unsold assets they hold, like stocks, bonds and real estate.

In June, investigative site ProPublica got hold of a cache of IRS documents and reported that Musk and other moguls, by structuring their pay to avoid income, built their wealth into the high billions while paying almost nothing in federal taxes. The activity wasn’t against the law, ProPublica said, but the tax records reveal how the uber-wealthy minimize taxes, sometimes by taking out loans using their stock holdings as collateral. By comparison, wage earners live primarily off their paychecks, which are taxed as income.

Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, commented on Musk’s poll on Saturday, saying “whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll.” He added that it’s “time for the Billionaires Income Tax.”

Musk responded in a tweet on Sunday with a vulgar comment about Wyden’s profile picture. 

It’s unclear when or if Musk will sell the 10% of his Tesla stock. Shares in the electric car company fell roughly 5% in premarket trading on Monday.  

Musk doesn’t accept direct messages through his Twitter account. Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNET’s Laura Hautala and Carrie Mihalcik contributed to this report.

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