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Obamas report $5.5 million in income on 2009 tax return

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By Michael D. Shear and David S. Hilzenrath
Friday, April 16, 2010

On Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama raised his hand and took the oath of office. It made him president, and it didn't hurt his book sales, either.

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On Thursday, the White House posted online the 2009 tax return for the president and the first lady, offering a peek into the book royalty engine that continues to fuel their status as millionaires.

The first couple reported an adjusted gross income of $5.5 million, almost all of it from royalties associated with the president's two bestsellers: "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."

The first book -- about Obama's early life and his struggle to find a racial identity -- earned about $3.3 million in 2009. The second, a more policy-oriented book, brought in $2.3 million for the president and his family.

In 2008, the books together earned them $2.6 million.

A large portion of the royalties came from sales overseas, an indication of the president's popularity abroad. The tax return indicates that $1.6 million of the total book income was taxable in "various" foreign countries.

As president, Obama collected a salary of $400,000, an amount that reflects an increase that took effect in 2001.

A White House official said Obama's money is not kept in a blind trust, as previous presidents -- including Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan -- have done.

The income from the books, together with money Obama inherited from his grandmother after she died in late 2008 and other income, required him to pay $1.79 million in taxes.

If the president had wanted, he could have received a refund check for $8,287 -- the amount he overpaid in estimated taxes -- but he chose to apply the refund to his 2010 taxes.

Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, left him stock in the Bank of Hawaii valued at almost $500,000 at the time of her death in November 2008, the tax return shows. The value of that stock plunged rapidly as the U.S. economy cratered in the first weeks of 2009. The Obamas sold the stock in early January after it had lost $125,000 in value.

The family tax return, filed jointly, shows that the couple donated $329,100 to 40 charities, including $50,000 to CARE, an anti-poverty organization; $50,000 to the United Negro College Fund; and $20,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Not included on the tax return was the $1.4 million award Obama received as the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Obama had previously announced that he was directing the entire cash award to a variety of charities.

Officials noted that a special IRS regulation allows the recipient of a Nobel to donate the award to charity without having to record it as income on a federal tax return.

The White House also made public the tax return for Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill Biden.

The couple reported income of $333,182 and paid federal taxes of $71,147.

The Bidens contributed $4,820 to charity, the returns show.


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