Gillibrand’s tax returns show ‘significant savings’ under GOP law, accountant says

The Republican tax overhaul gave a New York Democratic senator a tax break.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, as part of her 2020 presidential campaign, released 12 years of tax returns on Wednesday and demanded that her rivals follow suit.

Gillibrand became the first 2020 contender to publish her 2018 tax return on Wednesday, showing how she fared following President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. Gillibrand, who has said the tax law is an example of “Washington’s culture of soft-corruption at its worst,” got a tax cut worth several thousand dollars, according to two accountants who viewed the returns.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Kirsten Gillibrand Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg

The exact comparison is difficult because Gillibrand reported more in income in 2017 than in 2018, but Gillibrand saw “significant savings” from the tax bill, said Michael Knight, an accountant at Knight Rolleri Sheppard in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Gillibrand and her husband, Jonathan, reported $167,634 from her congressional salary and an additional $50,000 from her book deal, and paid $29,170 in federal taxes. Jonathan Gillibrand reported no income in 2018.

The 2017 tax law cut rates for individuals, but curbed some deductions. It capped the federal deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000, which angered officials in high-tax states like Gillibrand’s New York.

Taxpayers in those states, which also include New Jersey and California, have feared the new SALT limitation will significantly raise their tax bill. But many, like Gillibrand, are finding that they still get a tax cut.

One reason for the tax reduction is that Gillibrand and her husband previously fell under the alternative minimum tax, a special tax calculation for upper-middle-class and wealthy taxpayers to prevent them from taking large deductions that would effectively eliminate their tax liability, said Steven Rossman, an accountant at Drucker & Scaccetti in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Trump’s tax law nearly eliminated the AMT, so Gillibrand paid her taxes following the regular system this year. Under the AMT, Gillibrand couldn’t deduct her SALT at all, so now she gets to write off $10,000 of her $35,606 state and local tax bill. That gave her a new tax cut, Rossman said.

She was also able to take a new deduction for pass-through income on her book income, said Kyle Pomerleau, chief economist at the Tax Foundation. The benefit of the pass-through deduction and not getting swept into the alternative minimum tax outweigh the SALT cap, he said.

Gillibrand joins Senator Elizabeth Warren as the only two Democratic 2020 contenders who have released recent tax information. Warren’s most recent tax return is from 2017, prior to when the Republican tax law took effect.

Gillibrand is using the release to needle her opponents — such as Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been reluctant to make his returns public in the past — to disclose their own tax information. President Donald Trump refused to make his tax documents public in the 2016 campaign, despite a 40-year tradition of presidential nominees doing so.

House Democrats are currently studying how to ask Treasury to turn over the president’s returns.

“Transparency is an essential tool to combat the corrupting influence of money in politics,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “I’m urging all presidential candidates to join me and disclose at least ten years of their taxes, which will strengthen our ability to beat President Trump.”

Sanders said last month he would release 10 years of tax returns “soon.” The Vermont independent only released one tax return when he ran against Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2016.

Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg have said they would release their returns, but haven’t set a timeline. Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker haven’t yet said if they plan to disclose their documents.

— With assistance from Emma Kinery

Bloomberg News