Vice President Bush says he believes he has been "singled out" by the IRS and "taken to the cleaners" over two tax rulings that forced him last June to pay $198,000 in taxes and interest.
Bush, talking to reporters late Wednesday, said he plans to sue the IRS to recover the money. The IRS ruled that Bush had improperly claimed his Kennebunkport, Maine, house as his principal residence and thus, was not eligible to exclude from his income $496,000 that he earned from selling his Houston home in 1981.
"The tax has been paid," he said. "I'm the guy that's been taken to the cleaners. My only decision is should I try to do something . . . and I guess the answer will be yes."
Bush released three years of tax forms Wednesday after amending the blind trust he set up in 1981. Until last week he had refused to disclose the information, claiming that the terms of the trust prohibited it.
Although he knew of his fight with the IRS and in June directed his lawyers to prepare to file suit, he repeatedly told reporters that he had no information on his taxes because they were handled as part of his blind trust. The house -- the only one Bush and his wife now own -- is not part of the blind trust.
Bush complained that the IRS is holding him to a different standard than other Americans in ruling that he can't claim his house in Maine as his residence for tax purposes because he lives at the federal Naval Observatory in Washington in a house provided by the government for the vice president.
Bush, drawing an analogy between himself and a naval officer who lives on a base, said he wouldn't be denied a tax "rollover" on the sale of a house if he "lived in some barracks provided by the service" instead of in a house at the observatory. Bush said he should be allowed the same consideration as the sailor in the barracks, explaining that he lives in Washington because his job requires it.
"I just want you to hear my side of it," he said. I'm trying to do my job as vice president and the bottom line seems to me to be if you stay in Washington enough you're excluded from having [a tax deferral] that every taxpayer, with the possible exception of the president, has."
Bush said Wednesday night that he considers himself a Texas resident although he has no house there. He owns an empty lot there and lists his voting address as the Houstonian Hotel, where he stays on visits to Houston. However, Bush pays taxes in Maine.
"I'm a Texan," he said. "I've lived there since 1948. That's my home. The fact I'm serving as vice president doesn't [mean] it's not my home . . . . I'm legally, emotionally entitled to be what I want to be and that's what I want to be. That's what I am."
In a second ruling by the IRS, Bush was disallowed an exclusion from his income of about $29,000 in contributions to the Republican National Committee. The money, funds left over from Bush's unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign, had been placed in a money-market fund that the IRS ruled should have been reported as income.
"For Barbara [his wife] and me that's a lot of money," Bush said of the $198,000 payment he made to the IRS in June.
"I feel I've been singled out, but let the court decide that," he said.
In an interview published today in the Tulsa World, Barbara Bush said she dislikes disclosing the tax forms.
"I don't like it, but I'm used to it," she said, recalling previous disclosures that she and her husband made when he was in Congress. "Half of our friends were sorry we had so little [money]," she said. "Half [were] jealous we had so much."