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April 17, 2004

HERE, VIA THE TAXPROF BLOG, is an analysis of Bush and Cheney's tax returns.

I don't know of a similar Kerry analysis yet. (Though Tom Maguire has items here and here, which TaxProf notes.) But if you look at page 25 of Kerry's tax returns, you'll see an $85 deduction for non-money donations to Goodwill. A tax-professor reader notes that this:

raises an interesting parallel to Clinton's tax returns he released when he first ran for President. Remember how he got excoriated for deducting various clothing items donated to Goodwill, including, most famously, used underwear? . . . Kerry deducted $85 for a Goodwill donation! Enquiring minds want to know: what was it Sen. Kerry? Underwear? Military Medals?

Somebody should ask him.

UPDATE: The InstaWife looked at both links above and wonders why anyone is talking about Bush and Cheney as rich, when Kerry is so much wealthier. (Of course, much of Kerry's wealth is spousal.) And she notes that Kerry seems to be paying a smaller percentage of his income than Bush in taxes. But she misses the point: Rich Republicans are richer than rich Democrats, even when they don't have as much money!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve Verdon says that many commentators misunderstand the flat tax.

And no, tax-blogging won't be a regular thing here. I'd rather do cat-blogging. . . .

MORE: Reader Eric Lindholm (VikingPundit) emails:

I've tried to raise everybody's consciousness on this, but I'm not getting any traction. So I'll bother you.

Here in Massachusetts, the state tax return has an OPTIONAL higher tax rate of 5.85% instead of the normal 5.3% - just in case you want to pay more to the state.

Now, I cannot find Kerry's STATE tax return. As one of the wealthy few, did he pay the higher rate or did he pay the normal rate? In other words, is he a hypocrite or a panderer?

I don't know anything about this. Does anyone out there know more?

MORE: Here are the Massachusetts state income tax instructions. The voluntary rate is discussed at the lower left on page 12. As reader Kory Schimke emails: " Unclear why any sane person would do this, but if one thinks that rich people should pay more tax than they currently are required to, maybe they should do it voluntarily." There's more on this story here.

STILL MORE: If Kerry did pay the extra, it'll be a change from previous years, judging from this report.

MORE STILL: And on the federal front, Kerry initially underpaid: "Sen. John F. Kerry had to amend his tax return this week after accountants discovered he owed nearly $12,000 more than he thought. . . Spokesman Michael Meehan said Kerry's accountants calculated his capital gains tax wrongly at a 20 percent rate instead of the correct 28 percent."

But what about those voluntary Massachusetts taxes?

EVEN MORE STILL: A few lefty readers are emailing snarky comments because I'm "blogging about Kerry's underwear." Well, not really.

But, in fact, the Clinton underwear episode -- which, as a Clinton supporter at the time, I dismissed with similar snarkiness -- turned out to be massively revealing. He was donating used underwear, and taking big deductions for it. That combination of narcissism and opportunism turned out to mark Clinton's presidency.

Likewise, if -- as it appears -- Kerry is talking about taxes but not taking the optional higher rate, well, that's revealing too.

FINALLY: Tax professor Paul Caron emails:

In my federal income tax class, we joke that perhaps, in light of subsequent events (the Monica Lewinsky dress), President Clinton may have *undervalued* the used underwear he donated to Goodwill!

Good point!