Mike Pence's Tax Returns Can't Give Trump's Campaign The Ammunition It Craves
Amid continued calls for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to give American voters a peek at his finances, Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, released 10 years of tax returns earlier this month. If the move was meant to quiet those demanding to see Trump's tax returns, it failed. If anything, this has increased the pressure on the GOP nominee. If it was meant to open the door for Trump to criticize how Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton earns and spends her own money, well, they fall flat there, too. Trump's campaign can't criticize Clinton's finances with Pence's tax returns alone.
There's nothing particularly juicy in the decades' worth of tax returns Pence and his wife, Karen, dumped on Sept. 9. It shows an upper-middle-class family regularly relying on certain tax breaks to raise their family and pay for higher education. Pence's returns showed the governor regularly reported an annual income under $200,000 with his and his wife's most recently reported adjusted gross income being $113,026.
The Pence family's most recent tax return shows the couple paid a federal effective tax rate of 8 percent after they deducted $8,923 in charitable contributions and $2,500 for student loan interest while taking a $5,000 education credit offered by the IRS to offset education costs. Pence was also open about taking out more than $80,000 in loans to cover higher education expenses for his three children when releasing a personal financial disclosure alongside his tax returns, The New York Times reported. Pence spokesman Marc Lotter told The Wall Street Journal that the Republican vice presidential nominee also pulled $40,000 from a retirement account (noted on their 2014 return) to fund college costs.
The return also includes $9,000 in taxable income from a federal pension, and news that Karen's small towel charm and painting businesses are still working their way toward profitability. The couple reported $3,458 in losses from That's My Towel! Charm, Inc.
In releasing Pence's tax returns, Trump's campaign moved to attack Clinton's financial morality, accusing the Democratic nominee of profiting from her time in elected office. "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," NPR reported Lotter said in a press release.
While it's true that Pence's tax returns put his income below that of Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, they are hardly ammunition enough to question Clinton's finances. We need Trump's taxes before we can begin arguing which presidential candidate earns their money in the most ethical way. Tax returns released in August showed the Clinton's reported $10.75 million in income (drawn mainly from a book deal and President Bill Clinton's speaking fees), and paid a federal effective tax rate of 34.2 percent. Kaine and his wife reported $313,000 in income in 2015, and paid a federal effective tax rate of 20.3 percent, according to The Huffington Post.
Moreover, Pence's tax disclosure makes the absence of Trump's only more glaring. Trump is the first presidential candidate to withhold his tax returns from the public in 40 years. The Republican nominee has said he would release his returns following an IRS audit.