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The President's Tax Return

Contributed by mm | April 14, 2004 12:29 PM PST

A lot of news media wrote about the 2003 tax return for the President and Vice President this morning (NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, to name a few).

The President family is paying 27.7% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $822,126 to IRS. According to some analysts, the President will pay $30,000 more without the tax cuts he advocated.

The Vice President family is a bit richer but they paid out 19% of their AGI of $1,267,915, thanks to higher charity donations. Cheneys are not saved much by the tax cut because they are hit by the notorious Alternative Minimal Tax (AMT).

According to NY Times, John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, paid out 22.9% of his AGI of $395,338. He was filing tax separately from his wife, who is sitting on top of several hundred million dollars.

I paid out 15.4% of my AGI this year but I am pretty sure after adding back my Social Security Tax and Medicare contributions, my effective tax rate is in par with these politicians. (I expect next year I will pay out much less as my mortgage interest deduction and my child tax credit kick in.) Our tax system, at best, is mildly progressive.

Two more interesting notes:

First, I spent a lot of time searching for the real 1040 form of the President and Vice President but I found nothing. The Whitehouse website only includes a press release about "releasing" the tax forms, but with no details. If someone knows where to find it, please let me know.

Second, one story mentioned that Bush overpaid 2003 tax by $61,451 and Cheney by $5,712. Both elected to apply the overpayment toward 2004 tax payments. This means:

1) By overpaying almost a quarter of the tax due, Bush is less financial literate or he hires a bad financial planner. Cheney is much smarter by only overpaying less than 2% of the tax.

2) Both elected to apply the amount to next year's tax instead of taking the tax refund. This move is apparently politically savvy but not wise in personal finance angles. Anyway, we cannot complain: at least the President is do something to cut our deficit :-)

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