WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bernie Sanders released a decade's worth of his tax returns after years of resisting disclosure as he makes a second run at the presidency against Democratic Party rivals who are making financial transparency a litmus test for the campaign.
The returns show Sanders and his wife, Jane, earned more than $1 million in total income in 2016 and 2017. They earned $519,529 of taxable income in 2018, paying $145,840 in federal taxes for an effective rate of 28 percent. The Vermont independent, one of 18 declared candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, reported income from his job in the Senate and more than $381,000 in income from book royalties in 2018.
His books earned him $875,000 in royalties in 2017.
In 2017, when the Sanders earned nearly $1.2 million, the couple's highest-income year in the past decade, they paid an effective rate of nearly 32 percent.
"I consider paying more in taxes as my income rose to be both an obligation and an investment in our country," the Vermont senator said in a statement issued with the returns.
The Sanders' income has increased sharply in recent years as he earned more from book royalties and gained fame as a iconoclastic presidential candidate. From 2009 to 2015 the couple's average income was about $281,000.
On their 2017 tax return, the Sanders checked the box indicating that they had a financial interest in or signature authority over a financial account located in a foreign country. But in an amended return signed earlier this month, they said that was a mistake and that they never had such an account in 2017.
The Sanders appear to have under-withheld last year -- a common problem for many taxpayers adjusting to filing returns for the first time under the tax overhaul, which changed the withholding tables. Their 2018 return shows that upon filing, they owe the Internal Revenue Service $8,267, after having withheld $22,573 for federal taxes. They paid the rest of their liability in estimated quarterly payments.
Despite the drop in income last year, the Sanders fell squarely each year into the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans, as defined by a May 2018 study based upon the 2014 tax year by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Taxpayers needed income of at least $458,000 and less than $1,960,000 to be in that group.
Their most recent return listed $41,764 in deductions -- slightly below average for their income level, according to IRS data for 2014, the most recent year available. The new law limited the ability of taxpayers to itemize deductions by nearly doubling the standard deduction, to $12,000 for single taxpayers and $24,000 for married taxpayers who file jointly.