ProPublica series on tax evasion wins Selden Ring Award
The ProPublica series, “The Secret IRS Files,” has won the 2022 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for exposing how some of the richest people in America take advantage of the tax code to avoid paying even a single dollar in income taxes in some years.
The annual award, one of the foremost honors in investigative journalism, has been presented by the USC Annenberg School of Journalism for 33 years. The $50,000 prize honors investigative journalism that informs the public about major problems and corruption and yields concrete results.
“With more than 88 entries, this year’s competition for the Selden Ring Award demonstrated the remarkable breadth of intellectually rigorous, highly ethical, data-driven journalism with impact on communities around the globe,” USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful for our partnership with the Ring Foundation and proud of our shared commitment to recognizing and supporting investigative journalism.”
After ProPublica had painstakingly assembled a searchable database of millions of records, they then spent months combing through everything from SEC filings to court files to announcements of lottery winnings to detail how some of America’s most famous billionaires managed to all but wipe out their taxable income.
“We assembled an all-star team of reporters, editors and visual journalists,” said Jesse Eisinger, who served as coordinator for the series. “Once we started playing around with the database, we quickly saw that income and income tax weren’t the real story here. We realized a lot of these billionaires had very low income, and so their low taxes were a product of that low income. The first story had to compare the taxes they’d paid with their wealth growth, not their income.”
The series, which began in June 2021, walked readers through the sophisticated methods used by individual billionaires and their armies of lawyers and accountants — techniques that, while legal, are not available to or understood by millions of ordinary taxpayers.
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