Warren Buffett challenges Rupert Murdoch to release tax returns

Warren Buffett
Getty/Mario Tama

The man who inspired President Obama's millionaires' tax said he is willing to make his federal tax returns public -- if fellow rich guy Rupert Murdoch does the same.

That's right, billionaire investor Warren Buffett challenged the owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal to a financial-public relations duel of sorts.

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman has claimed he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary and earlier this year urged the government to stop "coddling" his super-rich friends and raise their taxes.

That prompted Mr. Obama to propose what he is calling the "Buffett rule" of higher taxes for those making a million dollars a year or more.

Some conservatives, including the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, have disputed Mr. Buffett's claim and called on him to release his tax returns.

Asked if he would do so at a conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Tuesday, Buffett told questioner Carol Loomis of Fortune Magazine to "ask the Journal's boss Rupert Murdoch," according to TheWrap.com. Murdoch is the chairman of News Corp., which owns Fox, the Journal and a host of other media outlets.

Buffett told Loomis he would release his returns if Murdoch did the same.

"He and I will meet at Fortune... I'm ready tomorrow morning," Buffett said, giving the conference host some added incentive to see if the business publication could get Murdoch to take the bait.

The comment comes as Mr. Obama is stepping up his sales pitch for the tax increase on millionaires. At a fundraiser in Dallas Tuesday, the president quoted former President Ronald Reagan, who is revered by the right, calling for an end to tax loopholes for the rich.

"Some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary, and that's crazy. It's time we stopped it," Mr. Obama quoted Reagan as saying when he was in office.

A CBS News poll released Monday showed that most Americans agree with the notion that taxes on millionaires should be increased in order to reduce the deficit. About 64 percent of respondents said they believe those making a million dollars or more in taxes should pay more.

And just 18 percent agree with the view of opponents that those higher taxes will cause fewer jobs to be created.

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    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.