Pence's 2015 Return Shows $8,956 Tax on $113,026 in Income

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(Bloomberg) Indiana Governor Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, earned adjusted gross income of $113,026 in 2015 and paid $8,956 in federal income taxes, according to a copy of the Republican vice presidential nominee’s return that was released Friday—a move toward transparency that his running mate, Donald Trump, has yet to make.

The Pences paid an effective tax rate of 7.9 percent and donated about that same portion of their adjusted gross income to charity, the return shows. In all, the couple released 10 years’ worth of their tax records, going back to the 2006 tax year. Over the decade, they earned a total of almost $1.6 million, paid total federal taxes of $142,343 and donated $119,500 to charity.

Trump has departed from 40 years of tradition for presidential candidates by refusing to release any of his tax returns for public inspection. The billionaire businessman has said he’s under an audit by the Internal Revenue Service and won’t release his returns until that audit is concluded—which may not happen before the Nov. 8 election. IRS officials have said there’s no law preventing taxpayers from releasing their returns to the public, even if they’re under audit.

Contrast with Clintons
Pence’s spokesman, Marc Lotter, said the couple’s comparatively modest returns reflect a stark contrast between them and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“These tax returns clearly show that Mike and Karen Pence have paid their taxes, supported worthy causes, and, unlike the Clintons, the Pences have not profited from their years in public service,” Lotter said in a news release.

Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator, has posted nine years of tax returns on her campaign website—and her campaign has said repeatedly that she and Bill Clinton have made their returns public “for every year dating back to 1977.” Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, has posted 10 years of returns.

The Clintons’ returns show that they’ve made tens of millions of dollars in speaking fees and book royalties. In 2015, they reported adjusted gross income of $10.6 million—almost 94 times the amount the Pences reported.

‘Fake Excuses’
Clinton’s campaign responded by faulting Trump’s lack of disclosure.

“Trump has continued to hide behind fake excuses to avoid coming clean with the American people, thumbing his nose at a basic level of transparency practiced by every major party nominee since 1976,” spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in an e-mailed statement. Clinton and others have speculated that Trump’s returns might indicate that he’s not as wealthy as he claims, or reveal embarrassing details about business dealings in Russia or levels of charitable giving.

“We won’t know until we see them,” Reynolds said.

The Pences’ returns, combined with a federal financial disclosure form he filed last month, contrast with public information about Trump’s finances—in terms of both their modesty and their simplicity. The vice presidential candidate had quipped that his tax documents would be a “quick read” depicting a middle-class life in public service. Pence, 57, and his wife have three children.

Governor’s Salary
For example, the couple’s 2015 income comprises mostly $109,807 in wages—which reflects Mike Pence’s gubernatorial salary in Indiana. Trump in May filed a financial disclosure that claimed income of $557 million over a 16-and-a-half month period that began Jan. 1, 2015. (However, Trump’s income disclosures listed such items as “rent,” “golf-related revenue” and “land sales,” which may conflate income with revenue—or his receipts before certain expenses.)

Trump has claimed he’s worth more than $10 billion—a scope that can’t be captured by the federal disclosure forms on which candidates value their assets. Those forms, which require candidates to apply value ranges to their assets, top out at $50 million for each. Others have questioned Trump’s net-worth claims; Bloomberg News in July estimated it at $3 billion.

Pence’s Pension
Pence last month filed a financial disclosure form that listed his most valuable asset as a “defined benefit pension” from Indiana state government worth between $500,001 and $1 million. He also listed liabilities: seven student loans worth between $95,000 and $280,000.

His tax returns contain a handful of notable elements:

The Pences claimed the “Making Work Pay” tax credit for $50 in 2009 and $55 in 2010, the years it was available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which Congress approved to spur consumer spending. Pence, who served in Congress from 2001 through 2012, voted against the act, House voting records show. In 2014, the Pences took an early withdrawal of retirement funds worth $40,000. Karen Pence reported earning a net profit of $634 as a watercolor artist in 2014. She’d reported earning $27 in net profit as an artist in 2009. Also in 2014, the Pences took advantage of energy-efficiency credits for windows, a “metal roof with appropriate pigmented coatings” and for owning a non-farm property. Economist Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign adviser, has said he’s encouraging Trump to recommend scrapping those kinds of credits.

Tax specialists have said that if Trump releases his returns, he’d expose them to additional scrutiny—perhaps revealing issues that IRS auditors haven’t discovered. Nonetheless, specialists say, there’s little reason why he couldn’t disclose his adjusted gross income, the total tax he has paid, how much he has given to charity and other details from the returns.

Trump’s campaign released a letter from his tax lawyers in March that said his tax returns for the years 2002 through 2008 were no longer under any audit, but Trump hasn’t released those documents.

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Tax practice Finance