Home Business Half of Elon Musk’s charitable spending appears to benefit tycoon’s empire, including a tiny non-profit school full of his own children

Half of Elon Musk’s charitable spending appears to benefit tycoon’s empire, including a tiny non-profit school full of his own children

Half of Elon Musk’s charitable spending appears to benefit tycoon’s empire, including a tiny non-profit school full of his own children


New York Times investigation published this weekend revealed that approximately half of the tax-deductible donations made by the Musk Foundation in 2021 and 2022 benefited in some way the tycoon’s business interests, partners, or family.

Among the beneficiaries reported by the Times was a Texas county which was showered by metal debris from one of Musk’s SpaceX rockets, as well as a Pennsylvania billionaire who fell short of a donation target after chartering his space company’s services.

Also on the list was Musk’s non-profit school, Ad Astra, where five of the dozen or so students happened to be his own offspring. 

The Tesla CEO—and the second wealthiest person on the planet—also donated $100 million to a charity which bought property next to a housing development occupied by his Boring Company employees, land records showed. The foundation which received the funds is run by none other than the head of Musk’s family office, Jared Birchall, who manages the titan’s personal fortune. 

In total, tax filings seen by the paper show Musk’s non-profit gave away $160 million in 2022—the last year for which records are available. Yet as tax law requires 5% of a foundation’s assets every year go to charitable causes, he was seemingly $193 million short of his legal requirements—among the very worst in the country.

Musk did not respond to requests for comment. 

Back in March 2022 Fortune cited philanthropy experts warning Musk’s foundation might in reality just serve to lower his personal tax bill with little to no intent in distributing the cash, by employing a loophole known as donor-advised funds (DAFs). 

Musk says his companies are philanthropic in spirit

Musk has a habit of making generous promises that earn positive publicity, then being shaky on the follow through. The New York Times cited for example his broken pledge to fix the contaminated water supply in Michigan’s city of Flint, or a failed promise to donate $6 billion to the World Food Programme if it could come up with a concrete spending proposal. 

Likewise, instead of delivering ventilators during the pandemic Tesla bought cheaper BiPAP machines and then slapped a Tesla sticker on the box. And while Musk pledged to finance the legal defense of those ‘cancelled’ because of their Twitter posts, the only case he has taken on thus far is a Gina Carano lawsuit filed against his personal nemesis, Disney CEO Bob Iger—over a post she made on rival platform Instagram.

When it comes to a Saudi sentenced to death for criticising the royal family on Twitter, he has been silent.

Musk does maintain that the very nature of his work is, in its own right, philanthropic. Whether it be Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink or others, he believes the companies he built into multibillion-dollar giants are helping the world already and should be considered as such.

“If you say philanthropy is a love of humanity, they are philanthropy,” he said during a TED Talk interview in April 2022.

In November 2023 Musk added he has “done more for the environment than everyone—any single human on Earth” courtesy of his work developing electric vehicles at Tesla.

“What I care about is the reality of goodness, not the perception of it,” Musk told the New York Times DealBook Summit. “And what I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil.”

In recent weeks the X owner has made principled stands on how he believes individuals and organizations should handle their donations and profits.

Last week Musk accused Jeff Bezos’ former wife of 25 years, Mackenzie Scott, of threatening the future of western civilization over her philanthropic causes (though he later took the post down). He also sued OpenAI for breach of agreement by turning the non-profit into a for-profit company, only for emails to later claim he was once in favor of the plan.


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