President Benefits From His Tax Cut
The release of the White House tax returns provided a clear window into the Bushes' and Cheneys' finances, as well as a glimpse at the impact of their economic policymaking. Last year's tax cut lowered the top rate -- paid by households earning more than $311,950 -- from 38.6 percent to 35 percent.
The Cheneys' wages totaled $454,301, including the vice president's $198,600 salary as well as $178,437 in compensation from Halliburton Corp., the oil services giant the vice president once headed. Mindful of the billions of dollars in contracts Halliburton has in Iraq, Cheney's office said that his deferred compensation was set in 1998 and that it "is fixed and is not affected by Halliburton's current economic performance or earnings in any way."
The Bushes' salaries totaled $397,264.
The tax cut also slashed the tax rate paid on dividends from 38.6 percent for the Cheneys and Bushes to 15 percent, and cut tax rates on most capital gains from 20 percent to 15 percent. Bush reported dividends subject to the new rate totaling $10,959. Cheney's qualified dividends were valued at $84,132.
Spokesmen for Bush and Cheney did not dispute the benefit the tax cut accorded the two. O'Donnell cited two other factors driving the vice president's plunging tax burden: charitable contributions that jumped from $121,983 in 2002 to $321,141 in 2004 -- 39 percent of taxable income -- and tax-exempt interest payments totaling more than $627,000 last year. But, he said, the lower income tax rate was another significant factor, worth $16,800.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan also noted the president's tax cut.
"Like every American who pays income taxes, the president received tax relief, and in keeping with the progressive nature of tax cuts, his percentage cut was less than the average reduction that American taxpayers will see in their returns."
Bush's $31,000 tax cut equaled 11.5 percent of his 2002 tax payments, a considerably smaller income tax cut in percentage terms than lower-income taxpayers, according to the Treasury Department. But measured against all federal taxes, including payroll taxes, Bush's cut was slightly higher than most taxpayers' 10 percent and 11 percent cuts, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.
Americans with taxable income of $14,000 or less and no children did not receive a tax cut last year, since their 10 percent tax bracket did not change.
Both the president and vice president are earning considerable amounts of money outside their day jobs. Bush's taxable interest totaled nearly $402,000 last year, most of it from a blind trust in the oil industry called the Lone Star Trust. He also received oil royalties of nearly $4,000.
The Cheneys' finances are more complicated, with interest and dividends coming from 10 sources. Royalty income, especially from Lynne Cheney's books, totaled $338,518. Income from foreign sources topped $27,000.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company