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Writer J.K. Rowling poses for photographers on arrival at the premiere of the film 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald', in London, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP) Writer J.K. Rowling poses for photographers on arrival at the premiere of the film 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald', in London, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP)

Writer J.K. Rowling poses for photographers on arrival at the premiere of the film 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald', in London, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP)

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman March 6, 2019

J.K. Rowling fell off Forbes billionaires list due to charitable donations, but she wasn’t the first

J.K. Rowling, the prolific author of the wildly successful Harry Potter book series, is known for her inspiring rags to riches story.

Now, a meme going around Facebook is commending the author for her charitable contributions, claiming Rowling is the first billionaire to ever fall off Forbes’ billionaires list over her donations.

The post, which features a picture of Rowling, says: "Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is the first billionaire to fall off Forbes’ billionaires list because of charitable giving." It ends with this quote, presumably from Rowling, "You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

This claim is partly accurate, in part because taxes are also a factor in her being removed from the list. .

In 2011, Forbes estimated Rowling to be worth about $1 billion, with most of her money coming in from the Harry Potter book series and film franchise. She fell off the billionaires list a year later, after donating an estimated $160 million to various charities (about 16 percent of her net worth). Forbes reported that Britain’s high tax rates also contributed to her losing the billionaire status.

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The author’s income in 2018 is estimated to be around $54 million.

The quote attributed to Rowling in the post seems to be legitimate as well -- it appears in a 2011 story by the Telegraph.

But here’s the portion of the statement that is problematic: Rowling was not the first billionaire to fall off the list as a result of their charitable giving. Forbes reported that Jon Huntsman Sr. was bumped in 2010 due to donations to his cancer foundation and later made it back on the list.

Rowling is well known for her charitable work and has supported the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland, The Maggie’s Centres for Cancer Care, Doctors Without Borders, and more. She founded the Children’s High Level Group, known as Lumos, which works to "end the systematic institutionalization of children across Europe and help them find safer, more caring places to live." She has also contributed to various other charitable causes through her philanthropic trust, Volant.

While Rowling wasn’t the first billionaire to fall of the list due to charitable donations, she was bumped off for doing so (along with paying high taxes), and is highly regarded for her philanthropic work.

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Says author J.K. Rowling was the first billionaire to fall off Forbes billionaire list because of charitable giving.
Friday, March 1, 2019
Correction, March 7: The original version of this story wrongly used net worth to describe Rowling's 2018 income. The story has been corrected on that point.

Our Sources

Facebook post, March 1, 2019

The Telegraph, Forbes list: JK Rowling fortune under vanishing spell, March 7, 2012

Business Insider, J.K. Rowling Is No Longer A Billionaire, Booted Off Forbes List, March 12, 2012

The Telegraph, Duchess of Cornwall asks J K Rowling for Harry Potter magic, June 5, 2011

Forbes, J.K. Rowling dropoff, Accessed March 6, 2019

Forbes, J.K. Rowling profile, Accessed March 6, 2019

Forbes, Jon Huntsman On Giving Away $1.2 Billion, May 18, 2011

Borgen Magazine, 7 Facts About J.K. Rowling’s Charity Work, Aug. 23, 2018

Philanthropic People, J.K. Rowling Profile, Accessed March 6, 2019

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J.K. Rowling fell off Forbes billionaires list due to charitable donations, but she wasn’t the first

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