Obama and Biden release tax returns. Will Trump, Palin, and other contenders?

President Obama and Vice President Biden release their returns on Tax Day. Sarah Palin last released hers as a VP candidate in 2008, and The Donald's finances are carefully guarded.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File
President Barack Obama speaks to media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on April 14.

President Obama said last week that he doesn’t need a tax cut if that would mean cutting Medicare benefits for seniors or Head Start programs for children. Now the president's tax return, released Monday, lets you judge whether the commander in chief could use a tax break.

He and Michelle Obama paid $453,770 in federal taxes last year, out of a combined $1,728,096 income. Most of that income came from sales of the president’s books.

The tax return also reveals that the first couple donated $245,075 to charity – about 14 percent of their income. The single biggest recipient was the Fisher House Foundation, which manages a scholarship fund for the children of killed or disabled soldiers. Fisher House received $131,075 in royalties from Mr. Obama’s children’s book, “Of Thee I Sing.”

In 2009, the first family reported an income of $5.5 million, thanks to a post-election surge in book sales.

What about Vice President Joe Biden, who in 2008 called himself the second-poorest member of Congress? His fortunes have improved. For 2008, he and Jill Biden reported an adjusted gross income of $269,256, which looked rather modest when compared with those of Mr. Biden's congressional colleagues, nearly half of whom were millionaires.

In 2010, the Bidens reported $379,178 in adjusted gross income, thanks in part to the higher salary ($230,000) that goes along with Mr. Biden’s new job. The couple paid about $87,000 in federal income taxes and almost $20,000 in state income taxes in Delaware and Virginia. They donated $5,350 to charity, almost 1.5 percent of their income.

Tax returns from potential 2012 candidates?

Nothing requires presidents or presidential candidates to disclose tax returns – it’s just a tradition, one of the many legacies of President Richard Nixon. As the race for the 2012 Republican nomination draws nearer, Tax Day reminds us that the Republican field is full of candidates with potentially fascinating finances, which could make for some interesting disclosures around election time next year.

Billionare and possible presidential contender Donald Trump has not only been talking up his smarts, but also his massive wealth. On Sunday, Mr. Trump boasted he had a “much, much bigger net worth” than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another possible contender. No one really knows how much Trump is worth, though, so the chance to pore over his tax return surely has pundits chomping at the bit. Also, The Donald might not be particularly charitable, at least by billionaire standards.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s tax return might also provide for interesting fodder. She released one in 2008 when she ran for vice president, revealing that she and husband Todd reported nearly $170,000 in income – but that that was before she inked various book, television, and speaking deals. Even daughter Bristol Palin made more than $250,000 last year as an abstinence advocate, so one can only imagine what Palin family tax returns would look like today.

If your appetite for presidential finances isn't satiated, you can pore over the Obama and Biden family returns yourself at the White House website.

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