Obamas' 20.5% Tax Rate Is Lower Than His Secretary's

Friday, 13 Apr 2012 04:43 PM

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President Barack Obama made $789,674 last year and paid $162,074 in taxes, a tax rate of 20.5 percent, far below the 30 percent minimum he is pushing for in the so-called Buffett Rule.

About half of Obama’s income is from his salary as president and the other half is from book sales, the White House noted in releasing the president’s 2011 tax returns. The first family’s 2011 earnings were sharply below the $1.7 million they made in 2010, due to declining royalties. Obama’s salary as president is $400,000 a year.

Obama, meanwhile, paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, who made less than $100,000, the White House confirmed to Fox News on Friday.

White House aides would not reveal Anita Breckenridge’s tax rate, but said it was higher than the Obamas' rate, Fox News reported. Breckenridge earned $95,000 last year.

“The president’s secretary pays a slightly higher rate ... than the president on her substantially lower income, which is exactly why we need to reform our tax code and ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage told Fox News.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney used the release of the tax returns to make a pitch for the Buffett Rule that would raise taxes on the wealthy. Carney noted that the president’s effective federal income tax rate is 20.5 percent. Under the Buffett Rule, those making over $1 million would have a tax rate of at least 30 percent.

“The president believes we must reform our tax system, which is why he has proposed policies like the Buffett Rule that would ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share while protecting families making under $250,000 from seeing their taxes go up,” he said.

“Under the president’s own tax proposals, including the expiration of the high-income tax cuts and limitations on the value of tax preferences for high-income households, he would pay more in taxes while ensuring we cut taxes for the middle class and those trying to get in it.”

Ryan Ellis, tax policy director for Americans for Tax Reform, said Obama’s “average tax is 20.5 percent, which is right in line with someone earning his income. A taxpayer in the top 1 percent [which Obama is] has an average effective rate of 19 percent. So he’s right in line.”

However, in light of Obama’s advocacy of the Buffett rule, Ellis wondered why the president wasn’t paying more.

“If President Obama wants to pay more in taxes, he doesn’t have to wait for a tax hike from Congress,” he said. “He can pay extra today. Why hasn’t he?”

The Americans for Tax Reform website has instructions for those wanting to make a voluntary payment to the Treasury and notes that Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., have introduced legislation to let taxpayers do it right on their own tax form.

The tax returns also show that the president and first lady Michelle Obama donated $172,130 to 39 charities with the largest amount, $117,130, going to the Fisher House Foundation, a scholarship fund for children of fallen and disabled soldiers.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill also released their 2011 tax returns that show the couple made $379,035 last year and paid $87,900 in total federal taxes — an average tax rate of 23 percent. The Bidens contributed $5,540 to charity in 2011.

“The president gets credit for giving so much to charity, over 20 percent of his income. Good for him,” Ellis said. “Shamefully, Vice President Biden gave less than 2 percent of his income to charity.

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