Posted by Curt on 18 April, 2016 at 2:59 pm. 9 comments already!


Jim Geraghty:

Bernie Sanders released his 2014 tax return this weekend, revealing that he and his wife took $60,208 in deductions from their taxable income. These deductions are all perfectly legal and permitted under the U.S. tax code, but they present a morally inconvenient, if delicious, irony: The Democratic socialist from Vermont, a man who rages against high earners paying a lower effective tax rate than blue-collar workers, saved himself thousands using many of the tricks that would be banned under his own tax plan.

With all of his itemized deductions, Sanders’s taxable income was significantly lower than it would have been if he had taken the standard deduction. The deductions left Sanders and his wife paying $27,653 in federal income taxes in 2014, on a joint income of $205,271 — an effective federal tax rate of 13.5 percent. If that seems low to you, your instincts are right: According to the Tax Foundation, the average federal income-tax rate for a couple making $200,000 to $500,000 in 2014 was 15.2 percent. The “millionaires and billionaires” that Sanders is so fond of berating payed, on average, just more than twice as much of their income (27.4 percent) in federal taxes as he did.

On the campaign trail, Sanders’s taxation philosophy is simple: If you can pay more, you should; deductions are not a justifiable reason for a wealthy person to pay a lower effective rate than someone who earns less. His web site declares, “We need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries.”

With such rhetoric, you might think that Sanders would be reluctant to take every deduction he possibly could. Yet he and his wife took these deductions:

  • $22,946 on home-mortgage interest
  • $14,843 on real-estate taxes
  • $9,666 on state and local income taxes
  • $8,000 in gifts to charity
  • $350 in gifts to charity other than by cash or check
  • $4,473 in unreimbursed job expenses, which according to tax law can include fees such as union dues and travel

Keep in mind, Bernie Sanders doesn’t really like people itemizing their deductions to keep their taxes low. Under his tax plan, people making more than $250,000 per year — a bit more than he makes as a senator, but less than the $400,000 he would make as president — would have their itemized deductions limited to 28 percent of their income. The Sanders family’s own 2014 deductions amounted to 29.3 percent of their income.

The Sanders’s single largest deduction was for the interest payments on their home mortgages. The senator isn’t such a fan of that deduction. In a 1997 book and again in his 2015 autobiography, he called for raising nearly $35 billion in new taxes by capping it at the first $300,000 in home-mortgage debt. In a speech on the floor of the House in 1997, he portrayed the deduction as a welfare payment to billionaires: “[Republicans] don’t talk about a housing policy through the home-interest mortgage deduction, which allows billionaires to get checks from the government when they deduct the mortgage from their mansions.”

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