Your tax returns are private information, whether you are just an average Tom, Dick, or Harry, or Harry Truman, President of the United States. For many years now, most presidents have chosen to make their tax returns public in some form as a means of establishing trust with the American people. In more recent times, presidential candidates have been doing the same thing to garner support in either a primary season or the general election. What do these candidates reveal?
Most of us struggle with one Schedule C for profit or loss from business. Imagine having six on one tax submission. Each of the Clintons had three Schedule C's to contribute during 2014. Hillary had one as an author and two more as a speaker and author through ZFS Holdings, Inc. Bill had one as a speaker, one as an author, and another as a consultant.
These businesses contributed $28,020,811 of the Clintons' $28,336,212 income for 2014, for which they paid $9,981,350 in taxes. It's a good thing they have these ventures, because their collective salary was a paltry $93, earned from GEP (Global Entertainment Partners) Talent Services, LLC. Maybe Bill got a residual from playing sax on Arsenio Hall?
Sanders' 2014 tax return shows a family income of just over $205,000, with 19% of that income as Sanders' Social Security benefits. Not only that, he prepared his own taxes that year. (Somehow, that seems fitting.) That's less than 1/100 of the Clinton's income. With a salary of $156,441, it looks as if he'd get a raise if he wins the White House!
Bernie also had one of the largest amounts of itemized deductions relative to income of all the candidates. $56,377 in deductions resulted in an overall tax bill of $27,653 and an effective tax rate on adjusted gross income of 13.5%. The vast majority of the deductions were for real estate taxes and home mortgage interest/points.
We cannot tell much about Cruz's 2014 taxes because he only released the 1040 Form and not the corresponding Schedules and other forms needed to review details. Cruz's 1040 shows a family income of $1,210,382 and $442,701 in corresponding taxes. We can, however, note that he made a payment with a request for an extension to file, with an estimated tax penalty for $2.038. There's nothing terribly unusual about that — several candidates have had similar issues — but disclosing the entire form as Clinton and Sanders have done helps to clarify the situation and prevent baseless rumors.
Fiorina's 2013 return with her husband Frank shows a collective income of $1,973,808 with only $45,844 of that in salary — $25,931 from AT&T and $19,913 from Fidelity Investments. Capital gains, taxable interest, ordinary dividends, and business income all ranged from between $400,000 and $600,000, but the Fiorina's racked up $209,300 in passive losses from multiple partnerships and S corporations. Total taxes paid were $429,005.
Kasich pulled in over $402,000 as the Governor of Ohio in 2014, including $129,093 in salary, $143,061 in capital gains, and $101,727 in ordinary dividends. Kasich claimed $74,271 in itemized deductions – but with only the 1040 Form disclosed, we cannot see the nature of the exemptions. They did help to drop his total taxes paid to $74,543.
The former House Speaker and Presidential candidate's 2010 return was quite complex – complex enough to require $8,505 in tax preparation fees (deductible, of course). The Gingrich family collected $450,245 in salaries, with the vast majority coming from Gingrich Holdings, Inc. and Gingrich Productions, Inc. Collective income was $3,162,424 while total taxes were $994,708. Surprisingly for a former Speaker of the House, Presidential candidate, and commentator, Gingrich only earned $21,625 in speaking fees that year.
The 2007 return of the Vice-Presidential nominee listed $151,556 in salary, with $107,987 of that being Sarah's. Her husband Todd incurred $9,639 in losses on "Snow Machine Racing." $17,000 in income was offset by $26,639 in expenses, including $10,858 in Depreciation Expenses, $2,960 in "Snow Machine Fuel" and $1,830 in "Entry Fees." At least Todd did pull in $15,513 in profit on a side fishing business. The Palins' total tax bill was $24,738.
If you want to see more, check out The Tax History Project, which has collected many of these returns and provided a page of links. Notice any absences? Donald Trump so far has refused to release his returns, saying he is under an IRS audit and will not do so until the audit is complete. The IRS confirms that there is no legal reason that anyone under an audit couldn't release tax returns, and there is even a Presidential precedent for doing so. Richard Nixon released his returns in 1973 after his famous "I am not a crook" statement regarding Watergate.
Ultimately, it did not end well for Nixon as errors were found in his taxes from 1969-1972 totaling over $476,000 (in 1973 dollars) according to the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation. The IRS came to a slightly different total of $432,787, which Nixon promptly paid.
Of course, the Presidency did not end well for Nixon in many ways. Trump is surely aware of this. Like Nixon before him, Trump will likely release his tax returns if and only if he decides that it is in his best interest to do so. He did say, "I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful…." There may be nothing in the Donald's tax returns worth hiding, but one thing is likely: if something is hidden there, it's probably HUUUUUUUUGE.
Photos by Joe Raedle/Getty Images, BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images