Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

How the richest Americans avoid paying taxes

woman holds 'tax the rich' sign'
In this 2011 photo, Carol Gay of Brick, N.J., holds a sign saying "Tax the Rich," as several groups including the Peoples Uprisings, October 2011 Coalition and Occupy DC, "occupy" Freedom Plaza in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin | AP 2011

A recent series of reports published by ProPublica exposed the ways the super-rich use retirement accounts meant for the middle class to build vast tax shelters on U.S. soil. 

Congress introduced the Roth IRA in 1997 “to encourage middle-class Americans to save for their golden years.” 

While most Americans have access to some kind of retirement savings, about 25 percent of workers have nothing saved at all, according to the report. Meanwhile, America’s top earners are raking in millions, even billions, from their retirement accounts with very little tax debt. 

Host Kerri Miller talked to an investigative reporter and a public finance expert Tuesday about the report’s findings and why the tax code allows some to accumulate money more than others.


  • Justin Elliott is an investigative reporter at ProPublica.

  • Elena Spatoulas Patel is an assistant professor of finance at University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS.