Warren Buffett Gives $2.9 Billion to Charity

Warren E. Buffett announced on Wednesday that he donated $2.9 billion worth of stock to nonprofit groups, as the 89-year-old billionaire investor continues to follow through on his pledge to give away nearly all his fortune to philanthropic causes by the time he dies.

Mr. Buffett said in a statement that he had given shares in Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that he has run for decades, to five organizations: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the nonprofit named for his late wife; and three groups founded by his children, Howard, Peter and Susie.

It was his 15th annual donation since 2006. Over that time, he has given about $37 billion worth of Berkshire stock, as measured by the value of the shares when they were donated. The stock that Mr. Buffett still holds is worth around $67 billion.

Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates founded the Giving Pledge, a nonprofit that encourages fellow tycoons to promise to give away at least half of their wealth over their lifetimes.

That Mr. Buffett has given money to Mr. Gates is no surprise: The two are close friends, with Mr. Gates sitting on Berkshire’s board — and serving as a regular bridge partner to Mr. Buffett. Among the Gates Foundation’s philanthropic focuses is the coronavirus; it has poured money into development of Covid-19 vaccines and paid to help distribute them to poorer countries.

One criticism that has dogged Mr. Buffett’s philanthropic giving is whether the donations are designed to generate personal tax benefits. In Wednesday’s announcement, he argued that the tax benefits had been modest: For every $1,000 in contributions, he has been able to reduce his federal and state income taxes by 43 cents.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump suggested that Mr. Buffett took big deductions, by way of explaining his own use of tax breaks. In response, Mr. Buffett issued a statement detailing the $1.8 million in federal taxes that he paid the year before.

In his latest letter to Berkshire shareholders, Mr. Buffett noted that the company paid $3.6 billion in federal taxes last year, amounting to 1.5 percent of all income tax paid by corporate America in 2019.

As a condition of his donations, Mr. Buffett urges beneficiaries to cash in the stock and spend the money “in a prompt manner,” and avoid stashing the money away in endowments. After his death, he intends for his remaining shares to be donated within 12 years.

In his statement, Mr. Buffett took pains to emphasize one additional point: He has not sold a share of Berkshire, nor does he intend to do so.