Obama aims to take dread out of April 15 -- pays $855,232 in taxes

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On a soggy Washington day as several hundred tax protesters gathered outside the White House, Barack Obama’s 2008 income tax returns were made public.

The documents showed the president and Mrs. Obama had taxable income last year of $2,656,902 million and paid $855,323 in federal tax. That is an effective rate of 32.2 percent.

For purposes of comparison, in 2007 President George W. Bush had taxable income of $719,274 and paid $221,635 in federal income taxes, an effective rate of 30.8 percent.

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“The president sold a lot of books and paid a hefty amount of federal income tax,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at Thursday’s briefing.

Bidens: smaller income, much smaller giving

Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill had taxable income of $269,256 and paid $46,952 in federal taxes, an effective rate of 17.4 percent.

The Obama’s were much more generous in their charitable giving than the Bidens. The President and first lady reported donating $172,050 -- or about 6.5% of their adjusted gross income -- to 37 different charities. The Bidens reported giving $1,885 or less than 1 percent of their income to charity.

Perhaps sensitive to the modest level of their charitable contributions relative to their income, the press release about the Biden's taxes said, "The charitable donations claimed by the Bidens on their tax returns are not the sum of their annual contributions to charity. They donate to their church, and they contribute to their favorite causes with their time, as well as their checkbooks."

“I know that April 15 isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite date on the calendar,” the President said earlier in the day during a speech about his tax policies. Given the size of his tax bill, he has many reasons not to enjoy tax day.

Eliminating the dread

In his speech, the President held out the prospect Americans could experience an April 15 without dread. “We are renewing our commitment to a simpler tax code that rewards work and the pursuit of the American dream,” Mr. Obama said. “We will make it quicker, easier, and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15 is not a date that is approached with dread each year.”

The public’s dread of the current tax system was on display in a soggy Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. Demonstrators gathered for what was one of a series of tax day protests around the country modeled on the Boston Tea Party.

Protesters across from the White House carried signs saying “Stop Punishing Success” and “Government isn’t the solution, it is the problem.”

Demonstrators interviewed by the Associated Press around the country said they were concerned by the sharp increase in federal spending since President Obama took office. The Obama team has defended the spending as necessary to counter the effects of a deep recession.

Tea party theme and the GOP

The tax day protests had been encouraged by a number of conservative Republican oriented organizations including FreedomWorks, a group based in Washington and led by Dick Armey, the former majority leader of the US House who's now a corporate lobbyist. The protests were also supported by americansolutions.com, an advocacy group led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He is being talked about as a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

At his daily briefing, Gibbs staunchly defended Obama’s tax policies including the tax cut that was part of the economic stimulus package Congress passed earlier this year. Tax reform, Gibbs argued, is “near and dear to the heart of the president.” The stimulus bill resulted in “the most workers to ever receive a tax cut in the history of the country,” Gibbs said.

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