A closer look at Jeb Bush's tax returns, personal finances

AP News
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Posted: Jun 30, 2015 9:17 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Tuesday posted more than three decades of tax returns online, revealing he has earned nearly $28 million since leaving the Florida governor's mansion in 2007 and paid an effective federal income tax rate of 36 percent between 1981 and 2013.

Here's a closer look at some of the facts and figures found in Bush's taxes.

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INCOME AND POLITICS

Bush's financial successes coincided with two political events: his father's election as president in 1988 and his own departure from office as Florida's governor in 2007.

The tax forms showed Bush was earning roughly double the median household income throughout the 1980s. He also incurred significant losses from business partnerships between 1985 and 1988, when he actually declared a negative adjusted gross income.

His financial fortunes reversed when his father was elected president, as his income climbed from $96,583 in 1988 to more than $1.3 million in 1990. Bush also earned more than $1 million each year in 1992 and 1993. During the period, Bush undertook numerous profitable ventures with Armando Codina, a prominent Cuban supporter of his father's, and other Cuban exiles.

Bush's income declined under President Bill Clinton, dropping to $370,330 in 1994, and falling further to $283,428 in 1999, the year he took office as Florida's governor, when he averaged $189,734 per year. When Bush left public office in 2007, his bank accounts swelled. He earned nearly $28 million between 2007 and 2013.

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MAKING HISTORY

Bush's campaign cast Tuesday's release as proof of Bush's commitment to transparency.

He is the first of the nearly two dozen major candidates for president in 2016 to release tax returns. And he was quick to point out that no presidential candidate has ever released this many years of personal information.

"Today, I'm releasing 33 years of tax returns — more than any presidential candidate in history," Bush wrote.

The next closest was Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee, who released 29 years of his income tax returns. In 2004, Democratic nominee John Kerry disclosed 20 years of such records.

The GOP's 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, was hammered by critics for refusing to release more than two years of his tax returns.

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FEW DEDUCTIONS

The tax returns showed that Bush has not aggressively used shelters, deductions or deferred instruments to lower his tax rate since he left the Florida governor's office.

In 2013, for example, Bush itemized only about $57,000 in deductions despite a total income of nearly $7.4 million. That was nearly the same amount in itemized deductions as 1995, when Bush's income was about $370,000.

Bush has only once declared a deduction for his family's college tuition — for $2,000 in 2004. That was a year after son George P. Bush earned his law degree from the University of Texas, and two years after daughter Noelle Bush earned an associate degree from Florida State University. Bush's son John Ellis Bush Jr. attended University of Texas at Austin years later.

It was not immediately clear which family member attended college in 2004, whether Bush's children attended school for free or whether the family paid their tuition and simply didn't claim the deduction on tax returns.

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THE SPEAKING CIRCUIT

From 2007 to 2015, Bush made nearly $10 million — $9,954,500 — making 276 speeches to companies, universities, research institutes and economic forums. They include the National Petrochemical Refiners Association, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, General Motors, TD Ameritrade, the Fertilizer Institute and a group called United Christian Giving Inc.

Bush spoke to at least two companies that paid him to serve on their board of directors — Rayonier Inc. in Florida and Tenet Healthcare in Dallas — and also appeared before Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, Pfizer Inc., the National Grocers Association and the Texas Oil & Gas Association.

He was also a frequent speaker to Poongsan Corp., a Korean conglomerate.

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CHARITABLE GIVING

In his letter announcing the release of the tax returns, Bush said he and his wife, Columba, had made $739,000 in charitable contributions since 2007. Tax returns filed from that year through 2013 show the couple gave away a little less than two percent of their income to charity on average, totaling $432,000.

As a percentage of income, that giving compares unfavorably with President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, whose most recent tax return reports donations totaling nearly 15 percent of their income.

But Bush and his wife appear to have recently increased their giving. Assuming that the couple included all of their charitable donations on their tax returns, they would have had to donate more than $300,000 in 2014 to reach the total Bush reported on his site.

"Since I left the governor's office I have tried to give back — and even though all of us strive to do more — I'm proud of what Columba and I have contributed," Bush wrote, noting that he and his wife had helped raise tens of millions of dollars for foundations battling cystic fibrosis, domestic violence and illiteracy.

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Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Ronnie Greene contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that Bush has earned nearly $28 million between 2007 and 2013, not nearly $29 million.