We reported on Monday about Bernie Sanders’ decision to release tax returns from the past 10 years. The returns showed that Sanders has amassed quite a lot of wealth, which some critics have used to attack him with in response to his rhetoric against “millionaires and billionaires,” even though he is, in fact, a millionaire. In the interest of fairness, here are some more details about tax returns from more of the 2020 Democratic field.
Naturally, we would also be reporting on Donald Trump’s tax returns, but he bucked the tradition – for now – of candidates releasing tax returns and appears ready to do the same in 2020.
Back to the 2020 Dem field and the candidates who have released returns.
Beto Weak on Charitable Giving
Beto O’Rourke got in some hot water over the percent of his income which was donated to charity, according to Politico:
The Texas Democrat published 10 years worth of his returns, becoming the latest primary candidate to respond to calls for transparency about their personal finances. In 2017, he and his wife reported an adjusted gross income of $366,455 and $1,166 in charitable donations — equating to a giving rate of 0.3 percent.
Speaking to reporters in Virginia on Wednesday, O’Rourke defended his relatively meager giving rate by saying he “didn’t expect to release his taxes because I never thought I’d be running for president.”
“We are trying to go back to some of these organizations to see if they can share with us, over the last 10 years, how much we have donated,” he said, adding that his family has also “donated time on the boards of nonprofits and, certainly, in public service and in public life.”
Less than 1 percent is a paltry sum, but it’s also true that not every charitable gift ends up on a tax form as a deduction. In some cases, as stated by O’Rourke, the way in which you file determines how much charitable giving you may want to list on your return to help with reducing taxable income.
O’Rourke was also recently dinged for reportedly underpaying on his returns according to the Wall Street Journal. Amended returns are being filed according to a spokesman for the O’Rourke campaign.
Elizabeth Warren Releases Complicated Return
According to CNBC, Elizabeth Warren’s tax returns are a good example of solid tax advice. The Massachusetts Senator gave just over $50,000 in charitable giving last year on around $900,000 of income, and will end up owing a tax bill when all is said and done:
Schedule A of Warren and Mann’s tax return shows that the two paid a total of $78,068 in state and local income, real estate and personal property taxes. Of that amount, they could only claim $10,000.
The couple made a charitable gift of $50,128 by cash or check, which lifted them over the $24,000 standard deduction threshold they would need to meet in order to itemize.
“She lost on a big state tax deduction,” said Lance Christensen, CPA and partner at Margolin Winer & Evens. “But the concept of bunching is important with respect to charitable contributions.”
As the article notes, with Warren residing in Massachusets, a fairly high-tax state, she actually wound up losing under President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act due to restrictions on deducting local and state taxes.
Book Deals Pay Big
Another thing we’ve learned from examining candidate returns is that book deals pay big for political figures as if we didn’t already know. The Week reports on some details and how some candidates make out better than others:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is happy to acknowledge he earned more than $2 million from his books in the past three years, while Warren reported a $3 million income from books since 2013. But Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took in just $320,000 in profits from her memoir last year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) profited $134,000 from her 2014 memoir, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) netted $75,000 for her book in 2015.
Obviously, Bernie has made out the best with his book deals and it’s not surprising given his strong following since 2016.
Bernie’s Not the Only One-Percenter
In the same story from The Week, we’ve learned that many 2020 Dems have earned enough to put them in the top tier of income earners in the United States:
Harris, Warren, and Sanders’ 2016 returns all put their incomes in the top percentile of American earners, the Times says. Harris’ showed a $1,889,156 adjusted gross income in 2018, about $1 million higher than Warren’s, and something that dramatically changed after she started filing jointly with her husband in 2014.
As more candidates release returns we’ll report on notable items. And, of course, if President Trump relents to critics, we will report on his tax returns also. After all, what’s he hiding, anyway?