Obamas’ Earnings, Helped by Royalties, Stayed High in ’08
President Obama and his wife released their 2008 federal tax return on Wednesday, showing that they paid $855,323 in federal income taxes on a combined household income of $2,656,902.
Mr. Obama and Michelle Obama also reported giving $172,050 — nearly 6.5 percent of their earnings — to 37 charities, including $25,000 contributions to CARE, a global antipoverty group, and to the United Negro College Fund.
For the fourth year in a row, most of the Obamas’ income came from royalties from his two books: “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”
Proceeds from book sales totaled more than $2.4 million in 2008, dwarfing the roughly $200,000 the couple made from Mr. Obama’s salary as a United States senator and Mrs. Obama’s at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Mrs. Obama went on leave from her job during the presidential campaign last year and formally resigned at the beginning of this year.
Earlier on Wednesday, the deadline for Americans to file their income tax returns, Mr. Obama made a sales pitch for his tax proposals, saying a tax cut in the stimulus bill would benefit “95 percent of American workers,” and praised other changes that he said would help small-business owners, parents of college students and first-time homebuyers. And he called for a sweeping overhaul of the tax code.
Mr. Obama made his remarks as conservative activists held a series of “Tea Party” protests around the country calling for lower taxes and less government spending.
The president has proposed to raise taxes on more affluent workers, and would himself be likely to pay higher taxes should his proposals go through. He has called for putting a cap on the value of itemized deductions, like charitable contributions.
Moreover, he advocates allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire as scheduled at the end of 2010, restoring the marginal tax rate on couples’ earnings above $250,000 to 39 percent, as it was during the 1990s. That rate is currently 35 percent.
The White House on Wednesday also released the tax return for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill. They reported an adjusted gross income of $269,256 and paid $46,952 in federal income taxes.
The Bidens also reported donating $1,885 to charity, less than 1 percent of their earnings. In a press release, the White House said the Bidens have made additional donations to charity not listed on the returns.
“The charitable donations claimed by the Bidens on their tax returns are not the sum of their annual contributions to charity,” it said. “They donate to their church, and they contribute to their favorite causes with their time as well as their checkbooks.”
The Obamas first opened a window onto their rapidly escalating personal wealth in March 2008, when they released seven years of their tax returns amid Mr. Obama’s effort to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
Those forms showed that the couple’s income had spiked sharply in 2005, largely because of book sales after Mr. Obama became famous with a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when he was running for the Senate.
From 2000 to 2004, the Obamas had earned an average of about $250,000 a year. But their taxable income surged to $1.6 million in 2005 and $983,826 in 2006.
In 2007, as book sales rose to a new high during the first year of his presidential campaign, they earned $4.2 million. Since then, Mr. Obama’s book sales have slowed somewhat but remain lucrative, the new tax filings show.
Mr. Obama signed a book deal in January, just before taking office. The deal, revealed in a routine Senate filing last month, will pay him $250,000 for an adaptation of his memoir for younger readers. The Senate filing also first disclosed his 2008 book royalty income.
The White House also released the Obamas’ and the Bidens’ state tax returns. The Obamas reported paying $77,883 in state income taxes to Illinois, and the Bidens reported paying $11,164 in state income taxes to Delaware.