By Dan Morgan
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, have assets worth up to $2.1 million, and they paid $24,738 in 2007 income taxes on total income of $166,495, which came from her salary as governor of Alaska and money he earned as an oil worker, fisherman and snowmachine racer, documents released by her campaign yesterday show.
The tax returns indicated that Palin paid no taxes on $16,951 in state payments she received as meal and incidental expenses when she stayed at her home in Wasilla instead of at the governor's mansion in Juneau.
Alaska's director of finance has already declared that the state does not consider these $60-a-day payments taxable. Accounting experts and some tax courts have differed on the question of whether such compensation is tax-exempt. Yesterday, the McCain campaign issued a legal opinion from Washington lawyer Roger M. Olsen supporting the state's view that the payments are not taxable.
Palin stayed in her Wasilla home 312 nights, or 54 percent of the time, when she claimed reimbursements from Dec. 4, 2006, through June 30, 2008. Although her staff has said most of her work as governor is performed in Anchorage, 45 miles from Wasilla, Finance Director Kim Garnero said the state capital in Juneau is considered her duty station, making her eligible for the non-taxable meal and expense payments.
In the couple's 2007 return, which was prepared by H&R Block, Palin described her occupation as "public service" while her husband declared his as "oilfield." The couple claimed six exemptions, including themselves and their four children.
Total charitable donations came to $3,325, or about 2 percent of total income. These included $2,500 in various non-itemized gifts and an $825 in-kind donation to the Salvation Army.
On a separate financial disclosure form, the Palins valued their home in Wasilla at between $500,000 and $1 million. Their mortgage interest deduction of only $10,203, reported on their tax return, suggests they have substantial equity in the property, according to one tax accountant.
Todd Palin's commercial fishing business is worth between $50,000 and $100,000 and the couple's fishing leasehold in Nushagak River, Alaska, is valued at $100,000 to $250,000.
Along with mutual funds and property, their total assets are between $880,000 and $2.1 million, the form indicated.
Much of the 2007 tax return deals with Todd Palin's varied business activities. Although he won $17,000 in prize money in Alaska's Iron Dog snowmachine race, he reported a $9,639 business loss after deducting equipment depreciation, repairs, fuel and other costs of racing.
However, he reported a profit of $15,513 on his commercial fishing operation, even after deducting $12,245 paid to his crew as a share of the catch, along with other expenses.
His major income was $43,518 from his job as an oil-field worker for BP. He paid $204 in union dues.
In 2006 and 2007, the Palins filed their returns in August and September, respectively.
[The Associated Press reported that the Palins underpaid their 2007 taxes by $2,017 when filing for an extension, but that the McCain campaign said the balance had since been paid. It was unclear if they might owe penalties or interest.]
In 2006, they paid taxes of $19,951 on total income of $128,005. That year the bulk of the family income came from Todd Palin's job as an oil worker, which paid him $102,716.
Palin did not take office as governor until Dec. 4, 2006.