I’ve just discovered Joe Biden’s tax returns for the last three years, and it’s not really breaking news. You don’t even need to subscribe to the New York Times. They’re posted on Biden’s campaign website.
In fact, Biden has released 21 years of his tax returns. In a video from October 2019, Biden said:
“I entered as one of the poorest men in Congress, left one of the poorest men in government in Congress and as vice president."
Joe and Jill Biden reported about $396,000 in adjusted gross income in 2016, his last year in office as vice president. His official vice presidential salary was $230,000.
The Bidens’ income did spike after he left office. The Bidens reported about $11 million in AGI in 2017, largely due to sales of his 2017 best-selling book, “Promise Me, Dad” about the final year of his son Beau’s life. Their AGI for 2018 was about $4.6 million.
Biden earned about $4.29 million for speaking engagements from January 2017 to the end of May 2019, the majority of which were for his book tour. Jill Biden also had income from her book “Where the Light Enters.” And both had income from teaching.
But with their rise in income, the Bidens did pay a higher effective tax rate — 23.5 percent in 2016, 33.9 percent in 2017 and 33.4 percent in 2018. This was pretty close to the top marginal income tax rate of 37%, after the Trump tax cuts of 2017.
The Bidens paid about $3.7 million in federal taxes in 2017, and $1.5 million in 2018.
And as their income rose, the Bidens donated more to charity: 1.5 percent of their AGI in 2016, 9.2 percent (or about $1 million) in 2017, and 6 percent (or $275,000) in 2018.
We still do not know how much, if anything, Trump donated to charity. And we’re not going to credit donations to the Donald J. Trump Foundation which had to be shut down as a result of a civil suit filed by the New York State attorney general. It was ordered to pay a $2 million settlement for misusing the foundation for his business and political interests.
When Biden released his tax returns, analysts noted that like most middle-class Americans, he paid tax at the “ordinary income” tax rate which applied for things like wages, speaking fees and book royalties.
And as we suspected before, and the New York Times confirmed, Trump does not pay anything close to the ordinary tax rate paid by most Americans. In fact, for most years he didn’t pay any federal income taxes at all.