What would Batman and Iron Man pay in taxes?

Contributed by
Apr 17, 2018

The deadline to file taxes has arrived. With the new laws and the IRS's ever-confusing forms, imagine just how complicated this would be for Batman and Iron Man's lawyers and CPAs to figure out how to account for billionaire playboys with huge businesses and vigilante tendencies.

So, while you're scuttling to get your federal and state forms in on time, we're wondering what it'd be like for a superhero. For the purposes of this article, we're going to use Forbes' estimated net worth and holdings of Bruce Wayne ($9.2 billion) and Tony Stark ($12.4 billion) within the Dark Knight trilogy and MCU films, respectively, and delve into the ways both heroes could get jobbed or write off their superhero and philanthropic efforts.

Naturally, there are many complicating factors here. With Bruce Wayne, we're not totally sure what state Gotham City is in. Usually, it's assumed that it's a stand-in for New York, but Lawrence D. Mandelker, a trusts and estates attorney with Seyfarth Shaw LLP (and comic book fan) believes it's in New Jersey. Stark, of course, is based in California, and both have inherited considerable wealth, which Mandelker says can affect what they've owed to the states and feds. Luckily for both masked men, they've surely paid off their debts in that area.

Now that we've paid up, we decided to look over what Bruce and Tony — who both assuredly have better accountants — are handing in, writing off, covering up, and so on for Tax Day. (We left out T'Challa, because the Wakandan tax codes are still a mystery, but hopefully they'll become clearer in the subsequent Black Panther movies.)

Income Tax

Because both men are single, their personal income in the highest of seven brackets will be taxed at 37%. For speculation's sake, we'll look at Wayne's 50% holding of his father's business, before the former was voted out of his company and faked his own death in The Dark Knight Rises. According to estimates, revenue for Wayne Enterprises would be around $31.8 billion today, so that's $19.8 billion, with a $730-500 billion federal and $1.7 billion state hit before Bruce writes his charitable efforts off.

Meanwhile, Stark Industries had a revenue of about $20.3 billion a year, so if Tony takes a similar cut that'd be $10.5 billion, leading him to somewhere between $375-400 billion federally, and $1.3 billion to the state. At that rate, Robert Downey Jr. would only need to make a few more movies at his $200 million take-home for playing Iron Man to pay off Stark's year.

Deductions

Stark has the edge here, considering he's publicly known as Iron Man and he can write off some of his company's technology as a "casualty loss." The law is vague, but we're betting Tony could argue that the damage to his suits and maybe all the money he lost on Ultron might fly, though the damage he's caused to infrastructure might hurt his case. He's also done his share of charity, giving lectures and helping some kids like a young Peter Parker with gadgets, and contributed a bunch of R&D for the greater good in connection with the UN and S.H.I.E.L.D. You have to expect that those defense contracts are pretty huge compared to reality, what with the threat of extraterrestrial invasions and the total destruction of Earth.

Wayne will have a bit harder of a time claiming any of his suits, vehicles, gadgets, cave, etc. because he's not a public-facing superhero. But he does have the Wayne Foundation to help the arts and orphans, which allows him some leeway to write off donations, his penthouse where he holds his galas, and likely hide a few expenditures with the help of Lucius Fox.

Both can write off home offices, as well, calculated by using the square footage and necessary expenses - electricity, cable, internet, phones, etc. - as a portion of property taxes, or any rental properties.

Stark will have this one a lot easier, considering how much of his massive Malibu estate can technically be an "office." And if he doesn't know it off the top of his head, Jarvis could certainly tell him how much he pays in monthly bills and what portion of his heavily guarded home is considered a workspace.

Wayne Manor must have a place for Bruce to be alone to keep up with his affairs, though obviously he can't reveal the existence of the Batcave, so that huge space isn't going to be a write-off, but he could probably cheat and make up a reason for his electric bill being necessary enormous.

Considering both men are public figures, albeit in different ways, they could also deduct any subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and other services that might be relevant to their careers. It would be a grain of sand in a monetary desert for them, but hey, a buck's a buck.

Corporate Taxes

Federal corporate taxes dropped from 35% to 21%, and considering, as John Oliver pointed out, corporations like GE didn't pay any federal taxes thanks to loopholes, we figure Wayne Enterprises and Stark Industries are doing just fine. Considering the end of Nolan's trilogy, we can only figure that Alfred and Lucius inherited a solid chunk of change, which they'll have to deal with on their own, while Bruce spends the rest of his life in anonymity (until someone really rich offers Bale and Nolan to come back for a new movie to retcon the Affleck years).

Stark is likely reveling in the new tax cuts, though he probably won't get away with as much offshore dealings as the average billionaire would, being such a public figure who's pissed off the government so many times. But then again, he's helped save the world from destruction a few times, so they'd probably cut him a break.

Bottom Line

Look, these guys are pretty busy and obviously have enough money, enough help, and enough their superhero plates to not care too much about accounting. They've done a bunch for the greater good, but if we're paying taxes, shouldn't they?