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Virgin founder Richard Branson says the rich may need "heavy taxes"

Historian challenges billionaires about taxes

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said the wealthy deserve to be heavily taxed if more is not done to address growing global economic disparity.

"We have to try to do everything we can to lift the vast majority of people up, when for the last few years the vast majority have not seen their living standards improve," Branson told an audience Tuesday night, according to media accounts.

Speaking at this week's Milken Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi, the British billionaire philanthropist said he didn't favor getting rid of capitalism, yet "for those of us fortunate to have made wealth, we have a responsibility to throw that out there and tackle some of the great problems. If we don't do that, then we deserve to have very heavy taxes leveled on us."

Branson's comments follow similar sentiments by other billionaires on the topic, including hedge fund mogul Ray Dalio, who in January declared capitalism as basically "not working for the majority of people" at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

A report released at Davos by the charity Oxfam International found four-fifths of global wealth created in 2017 was claimed by the top 1 percent of income earners. 

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett for years has advocated for higher taxes on the wealthy as a means of distributing wealth more equally.  

Buffett in November 2014 was among more than 400 rich Americans who called on Congress to reject the Republican tax plan that slashed taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Their appeal did not work, and the measure became law.