Why is Obama's tax rate so low?

The president and his wife report an effective tax rate of 18.4% for 2012.

By Kim Peterson Apr 15, 2013 1:07PM
President Barack Obama and his wife earned only about $608,000 in 2012, a huge drop from the millions they made in the past when his book royalties were pouring in. Most of the president's income last year came from his $400,000 salary.

Even though the president's income has slowed, you'd expect his tax rate to be fairly high. Yet for 2012, the Obamas saw an effective tax rate of just 18.4%. The couple paid about $112,000 in federal income taxes. You can see their tax return here.

Why is the president's tax rate so low?

The short answer is that he gave a lot to charity. About 25% of the couple's income, or about $150,000, went to 33 charities, The New York Times reports. He gave a large chunk of that, about $103,000, to a Chicago foundation that provides housing to veterans getting treatment at military hospitals.

The president's tax rate was getting widely criticized Monday by Republicans and Democrats. Republicans portrayed Obama as a hypocrite for criticizing former opponent Mitt Romney for a low tax rate while personally getting a similar deal. Democrats said it just shows that tax rates on the wealthy are too low.U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference from the White House /Larry Downing/Reuters

"We can't collect 18% from people making that much money and be able to afford to build roads and bridges and educate kids and do the medical research we used to," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," according to Politico.

Host Joe Scarborough, meanwhile, tore into the president. "Barack Obama has been championing raising taxes on small-business owners for years," Scarborough said, according to Business Insider. "And he's paying 18%, because raising those taxes don't affect him. And he talks about fairness?"

The White House countered the criticism by saying that Obama would have paid more in taxes under his own tax proposals, particularly the ones directed at high-income earners.

More on moneyNOW

Apr 15, 2013 1:36PM

Why are the Obamas not paying income taxes on their expensive vacations?  Normally, when an employer pays for such trips, the recipient pays the taxes.

I won some vacation trips on a previous job, including a Caribbean cruise.  I had to pay income taxes on the fair market value of those vacations.

Apr 15, 2013 1:23PM

Face it....all politicians are hypocritical bastards.

From taxes to healthcare to gun control to expenses.


They just don't give a rat's a--.




Apr 15, 2013 1:37PM
He paid less than most in the middle and lower classes.  BUT, it's okay because he's a liberal.
Apr 15, 2013 1:45PM
For all of the mathematically challenged; $608,000 - ($608,000 x 25%) = $456,000 taxable income for the obama's. I thought all of the liberals were adamant that those earning over $250,000/year should pay a 30% or 40% tax rate?   Doesn't this make uncle barack one of the greedy capitalists that are keeping all of you down and impoverished?
Apr 15, 2013 1:38PM
Mitt Romney played by the rules too.  Romney made more money and gave more money to charity, including his church, which is conspicuously missing from President Obama's list of charitable deductions...  If the president didn't think he was having to pay his fair share of taxes, he could have paid more.  He apparently didn't feel that strongly about it.  
Apr 15, 2013 1:29PM

These a-hole lawmakers need to just have a 10-15% flat tax for everyone, with never never never never any credits or deductions.


But they will never give up the power to pick and choose winners and losers.


Obama needs companies like GE for campaign funds and the foodstampers for votes so they pay nothing in income taxes , the rest of us get the shaft.


When the government pays for his parties, vacations, and golf trips, does it really make a difference what he paid, unless he has to report these as income which he won't.

Apr 15, 2013 1:47PM
Apr 15, 2013 1:52PM
 call it what you will he is a hypocrite
Apr 15, 2013 1:54PM
Did he pay less than Warren Buffetts secretary? I thought that was the benchmark for "fairness"?
Apr 15, 2013 1:47PM

I support a flat rate sales tax of 10% on every purchase. No exemptions. No excuses.  If you spend your money here, you pay taxes here!


The means for collecting those taxes are already in place and currently serving out state and local governments daily.  Only one more bracket on the form to fill out for the retailers.


The source of the money doesn't matter.  You can earn it legally.  You can earn it illegally.  You can inherit it.  You can dig it up from your back yard, buried there for 50 years.  You can bring it with you in a suitcase, as you fly over here as a tourist from your foreign home.  It doesn't matter where you got the money, you pay the same 10%, when you spend it.


Now, we have a fair and workable plan that pays for infrastructure, retirements, border security and so on!

Apr 15, 2013 1:35PM
If you think the President paid too little in taxes, then vote for the congressmen who will vote for higher tax rates for wealthy Americans.
There probably aren't very many of them who would.  Why?  Because they themselves are wealthy Americans.  Plus it only takes one term in office for any congressman to get lifetime pension and healthcare benefits.  Set for life.

Apr 15, 2013 1:40PM

The esteemed Senator Murphy has been a busy man. 

Last week he was attacking Fox & NASCAR for broadcasting an event sponsored by the NRA.

This week he's whining that we don't tax Americans enough.


What will be on his agenda next week?

Apr 15, 2013 1:41PM
Just even more examples of how the 36% is a bunch of crap with the loopholes!
Apr 15, 2013 2:15PM

OMG, only the foolish (media and presidential debate moderators) would calc an effective tax rate on AGI when TI makes so much more sense and creates a better "apples to apples" comparison.


It is painfully obvious that Dumbama has the financial sophistication of a coffee cup.  His tax return has Simpleton written all over it and this is the guy you 51%ers voted for to get you better jobs and more jobs.   He does nothing useful with his money that would contribute to economic gains in this country.  I know a ton of people with less capital that are running businesses and employing people and demonstrating "managed" risk taking and, above all, practicing AMBITION.


All are actionable traits that do more for this country than our leader.  The people that are players in the economy can easily see the lack of leadership by this administration. 

The tax rate should only be higher for those politicians that want everyone to pay higher taxes.   Lower taxes and the Federal Gov't's role in America and we can start to have a recovery like no other in the world.   The Federal Gov't is TOO BIG! and it takes TOO MUCH!!!
Apr 15, 2013 1:29PM

Can't wait for 2013, with his surtaxes, their will be paying more. Caught in his own tax trap!! He gives to charity like his administration hands out $$ to people.

Apr 15, 2013 2:01PM
     "A big part to charity.  25% to charity $103,000 to homeless vets.  Unless you can match that shut the **** up."
He's making up for the first five years of the last decade when he was an Illinois state senator and making over 200k, but barely contributing 1% to charity or between $1470 to $3400. It wasn't until he became a US Senator and made well over a million bucks before he even came close to 5%, when Axelrod told him if he wanted to have a serious shot at running for the presidency, he'd better step up in "appearing to look" charitable!!
Apr 15, 2013 2:38PM
To those of you advocating that we should add the president's charitable contributions to the taxes he paid to come up with a 43% figure, which is certainly a fair share...

Where was that mathematical equation during the presidential campaign??  I do not remember Mitt Romney getting any credit at all for the MILLIONS OF DOLLARS he gives to charity every year!!  The hypocrisy is breathtaking!! 
Apr 15, 2013 1:35PM
Warren Buffet and John Kerry are two of the biggest tax dodgers in history. Realized and un realized income are ****ttttttttttttt. The rich would die if ALL loopholes were closed. Where are the mentally ill with assault rifles when we need them.
Apr 15, 2013 1:31PM
when he says raise taxes on the wealthy he is also saying raise his taxes..duh...
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