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Zuckerberg’s IPO tax break?

By Kay Bell ·
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Posted: 2 pm ET

Chances are you're a Facebook fan. And I'm sure you like Bankrate on that social network.

Now with Facebook's initial public offering, or IPO, announcement, even tax geeks are finding new things to love, or at least discuss, when it comes to the social media giant.

Thanks to details in the Facebook S-1 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, we get specifics on Mark Zuckerberg's earnings.

The young Facebook mogul received a $500,000 salary in 2011. That's relatively modest compared to some chief executives. Zuckerberg's salary was at least supplemented last year by a $220,500 bonus.

For 2012, Zuckerberg's getting a $100,000 raise.

But next year, according to the IPO document, Facebook's "compensation committee discussed and approved a request by our CEO to reduce his base salary to $1 per year, effective Jan. 1, 2013."

The $1 a year payout to top executives is not new. The same arrangement was made for the heads of Google, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and Apple.

And just like the CEOs of those successful firms, Zuckerberg isn't going to to starve. He's no doubt got lots of previously earned money stashed away, earning income a la Mitt Romney.

But tax folks are again pondering what Facebook's financial jiggering will do to the young Silcon Valley entrepreneur's tax bill.

Some think the pay cut could reduce Zuckerberg's tax bill to zero. One hypothetical scenario even has him qualifying for some tax breaks designed to benefit low-income earners. I doubt, though, he'd ever apply for the federal aid.

Zuckerberg's tax, or no-tax, IPO possibilities are even more interesting because when Warren Buffett announced that he paid too little in taxes, Zuckerberg said he wouldn't be opposed to paying a higher tax rate. He also joined Buffett in committing to donate at least half his fortune to charity, which also could lower a donor's tax bill.

It's a fun diversion to look at how the rich make and manage their money. But it also offers a real basis for examining the current tax system and how it is so easily manipulated, as long as you have the wherewithal to hire skilled tax attorneys and accountants.

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