August 1, 2011
How the Obamas (and the Guilty Left) Can Pay More Taxes
By Paul B. Matthews
President Obama and others on the "guilty left" love to talk about all of the "Bush tax breaks" they receive but don't need -- a theme that was again prevalent in Obamas address to the nation Monday night on the debt ceiling.
How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don't need and didn't ask for?
In April, he reiterated this point during a speech on deficit reduction.
I don't need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn't need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn't be here without. That some of you wouldn't be here without. And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that's done so much for them. Washington just hasn't asked them to.
Obama has also repeatedly called to sharply reduce the utilization of itemized deductions on married couples with incomes over $250,000 -- what the left now affectionately calls "spending within the tax code."
[T]he tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions[.] ... And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like home ownership or charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn't itemize.
If Obama and the others with incomes over $250,000 genuinely believe that they are "not paying their fair share" of income taxes, then here are a few tax strategies they can use to increase the amount owed each year to Uncle Sam.
1. Do not utilize itemized deductions.
According to the 2010 Obama personal tax filing, Barack and Michelle Obama claimed $373,289 in itemized deductions. Instead of claiming all these deductions, the Obamas could have simply selected to utilize the standard deduction ($11,400 for married couples), thereby boosting their taxable income by $361,889.
By utilizing this strategy, they could have paid an additional $126,661 in 2010 income taxes (utilizing a 35% marginal tax rate).
2. Do not place any money into deferred asset accounts including 401Ks, IRAs, Self-Employed 401Ks, SIMPLE or any other retirement type account.
In 2010, the Obamas contributed the maximum of $49,000 into a Self-Employed 401K. By utilizing this strategy, the Obamas successfully managed to avoid $17,150 in 2010 income taxes.
3. Do not recognize capital losses.
The Obamas managed to take the maximum capital tax loss deduction of $3,000 in 2010. If the Obamas had not recognized a long-term capital loss at some point in the past, they could have paid an additional $1,050 in 2010 federal taxes.
4. Do not utilize the Foreign Tax Credit.
Given that President Obama is hypercritical of U.S. multinational companies for holding assets overseas to avoid high U.S. corporate tax rates, it's almost hypocritical of the president to utilize the Foreign Tax Credit on the individual Form 1040. But that is exactly what he did -- to the tune of $22,215.
If the Obamas had utilized these four simple tax maximizing strategies, they could have paid an additional $167,076 in 2010 federal taxes.
This number would have more than offset the $69,050 they "saved" thanks to the Bush 4.6% marginal tax rate cut on incomes over $250,000.
So the next time President Obama goes on a tirade that he is not paying his fair share of income taxes, please feel free to reference this article.
Paul B. Matthews is an Austin, TX-based CPA. He holds an MBA from the University of Texas.