As a cap to Complain About Taxes Week, I thought it would be amusing to peruse somebody else’s tax return. There are not very many publicly available ones to choose from, but there is this one from a famous multi-millionaire author.
11 Slightly Interesting Things From the Obamas’ 2009 Tax Return
1. The social security numbers are redacted. The White House provided most of the 1040 and schedules that were filed, but the SSN boxes are blank. I guess there is the potential for political pranks, but seriously, what are the chances of somebody trying to use Barak Obama’s identity to open a new credit card?
2. Both Obamas sent $3 to the presidential election campaign fund. A classy thing to do given that Obama is the only major party candidate in history to turn down money from the fund. Presumably, he won’t use it in 2012 either, so this just helps the other guy.
3. The Obamas didn’t file until April 7, even though they had a refund of $8,287 coming their way. The accountant signed it March 30. That seems a little tardy. Did he have more important clients whose returns had to be done first?
4. Michelle Obama gave her occupation as “US First Lady.” Her husband listed “US President” even though that gig provided only a small slice of his 2009 income. The Bushes listed the same occupations, although they omitted the “US” bit. I guess they assumed the IRS would figure it out. Hillary Clinton called herself an “attorney” on the 2000 Clinton return.
5. The presidential W-2 is from the “DFS-CIVPAY Directorate.” At least I think so. W-2s were not provided. But Mr. Obama got $374,054 from that sinister sounding source in 2009. Mrs. Obama apparently earned $406 from the University of Chicago Hospitals in 2009.
6. For a sitting president, Obama is doing very well. He took in $5,623,284 in 2009, practically all of it from book royalties. I’m waiting for him to slip into a speech that he is the first US president in history to personally pay more than a million dollars into the treasury in a single year. Generally, presidents wait to become ex-presidents before really raking it in. Bill Clinton made $109 million during the Bush years, something that makes even a cynic like me uncomfortable.
7. The Obamas are, apparently, really bad investors. They had investment income of only $25,491 for 2009. Given that they must have several million salted away by now (2008 income was $2.7M) that kind of return sounds like they are in all cash. Is this because any investment they made could be considered a conflict of interest? Or do they know something I don’t?
8. Foreigners paid Obama more than a million dollars last year! Of course, that’s nothing more than royalties from books sold outside the US, but doesn’t it sound like a great line for a less principled politician to use in the fall?
9. Obama paid $59,372 to foreign governments and then reduced what he paid the US Treasury in taxes by that amount! Again, nothing even a little untoward here. If you pay foreign taxes on money you make overseas the IRS gives you a credit for it to use against your US taxes, before it goes ahead and taxes you on the same income again. Fun fact: only Uncle Sam taxes his citizens on what they make everywhere on the planet. Most countries tax only what happens inside their borders.
10. The state of Illinois will tax you on your income if you claim to be from Chicago, even if you use “1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC” as your address. Then again, the Obamas deducted $52,195 for home mortgage interest.
11. The Obamas withdrew $48,732 from an IRA in 2009. There is no further detail on this other than line 15b on the 1040. I’m really scratching my head on this one. They couldn’t possibly need the money. Do they expect tax rates to be much higher when they are retired? If so, why not a Roth conversion instead? Of course, see item #7.