President Obama’s 2010 Tax Return

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Being the the President of the United States has its perks, but one of the downsides is that people get access to even the most private of details. A prime is example is the annual ritual of scrutinizing the President’s tax return. Here are the salient details:

  • They earned $1.73 million, the vast majority of which came from his books (1.38 million, after expenses)
  • He maximized his employer contributions to retirement in a SEP, SIMPLE, or some other – $49k
  • They donated nearly $250,000 to charity, or about 14% of his income.
  • They received a tax refund of $12,334 because of his estimated tax payments (higher than the average tax return!).
  • He used a Chicago, IL accounting firm – Wineberg Solheim Howell & Shain.

The pundits have already seized on the fact that Vice President Biden didn’t donate as much money as President Obama, a “mere” 1.4%. 1.4% is still $5,350, a pretty generous sum that any charity would be happy to receive. That said, I wonder what the average (mean) is.

Anything interesting catch your eye from the return?

{ 46 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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46 Responses to “President Obama’s 2010 Tax Return”

  1. billsnider says:


    How pitiful the pay is for what they do.

    Bill Snider

    • Jim says:

      Isn’t it amazing? The reality is that the pay day comes after serving in the form of more books, speaking gigs, etc. (which is how it should be when you think about it). It’s a tough way to make a living though.

  2. Texas Wahoo says:

    I’ve always wondered why we pay people like the president/senators. Do we think good people wouldn’t want to be president if they had to do it for free? I bet it wouldn’t decrease demand much, if at all.

    • Jim says:

      We pay because it’s in the Constitution. 🙂

      • Texas Wahoo says:

        It just says he should receive “a compensation.” I think free room/board/transportation, etc. is “a compensation.”

        • NateUVM says:

          Now you’re suggesting that Federal employees not even get paid?!

          Where does the insanity end…?

          • Jim says:

            Nate – You’re putting words in his mouth, he said Senators and the President, not federal employees.

          • NateUVM says:

            Admittedly, I was being a little toungue-and-cheek.

            But, If we’re being technical, it’s not like I said ALL federal employees, either. In that The President and US Senators ARE Federal employees, he WAS saying that there are Federal employees that shouldn’t be paid a salary… But I think that’s taking the conversation to a silly level.

            Point is, he’s CLEARLY saying that the President/Senators should not be paid. Let’s debate the merits of that statement.

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            “Point is, he’s CLEARLY saying that the President/Senators should not be paid. Let’s debate the merits of that statement.”

            What exactly is the point of paying the president? He doesn’t need to spend any of his own money because everything is provided to him while he is in office. He always makes a lot more than what he is paid by the government through other means (books, speaking, etc.). Why is he paid? What are we getting out of that 500k that we are paying him that we wouldn’t get if it was a non-paying position?

          • NateUVM says:

            Wow. Now we’re not going to pay the President because he/she doesn’t need it? Really? That’s a good reason not to pay someone for doing their job?

        • Jim says:

          Very true, very true.

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t think that corporations pay more than they have to, just because they’re employees are performing a service. They pay what they have to in order to get highly qualified individuals.

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            This was meant as a reply to NateUVM – got mixed up on the thread.

        • Katrina says:

          The presidents food is only paid for if it is for official government business, otherwise he gets billed for the meals he and his family eat.

          • mannymacho says:

            Technically that’s true, but I’m pretty sure he could go anywhere and eat free if he wanted to. Would you really cause a fuss about charging the leader of the free world for a $10 meal?

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            Are you suggesting that he pays for all of the meals prepared by his personal chefs in the white house??? I think you’re mistaken.

          • Jake says:

            The president does get billed for his personal meals and other personal expenses.

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            You link doesn’t seem to suggest he pays for the food prepared by the personal chef. It gives the example of wanting to get special donuts. I would be interested in seeing how much money the president actually spends on his own personal meals, as compared to how much is spent on meals that we pay for.

            Either way, I just don’t see the need to pay the president a large salary + pension, when being the president is hugely profitable without those payments. Most presidents are wealthy before they become president, and even those that are not extremely wealthy become wealthy after they leave. To me, being able to command $150k per speach because you were the president is enough of a pension.

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            And thanks for the link Jake. I was wrong about person food prepared by the chef (although I still wonder what percentage of meals are considered business expenses). Very interesting stuff.

          • NateUVM says:

            I’d imagine that meals that are provided as part of meetings could be considered business expense (cabinet meetings, meetings with congressional leadership, etc…). State Dinners, I am sure, are probably covered, too.

            This all seems kinda silly, complaining about little things like funding for NPR or Planned Parenthood or….paying the President, when there are MUCH larger budgetary issues out there.

            Also, it seems to fly in the face of our American capitalist philosophy to not pay someone for the job they are doing simpply because of how wealthy they may or may not be beforehand, how well they are able to parlay that job into future income, or for whatever else they are able to earn on the side before, during, or after.

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            “Also, it seems to fly in the face of our American capitalist philosophy to not pay someone for the job they are doing simpply because of how wealthy they may or may not be beforehand, how well they are able to parlay that job into future income, or for whatever else they are able to earn on the side before, during, or after.”

            I couldn’t disagree more. I think the capitalist philosophy would be to pay them what you have to pay to get the best people for the job. The reason CEOs are paid so much is because you want to get the best ones and you have to pay enough to keep them from going to another company. The reason miners or expatriats in Nigeria are paid so much is that you have to pay them or you won’t get qualified people willing to do it. I don’t particularly care what the presidnt makes from all of the book deals he signed while running for president or all of the 100k+ speaches he gives after that, except in so far as it aids in the theory that the most qualified people would not decide not to run for president because they won’t be getting a hefty salary. I just don’t think you have to pay much to get the best president. Would Obama have decided not to run if it didn’t come with a hefty salary?

          • NateUVM says:

            No, you get paid a wage/salary because you’re providing a service in exchange for your time.

            There are plenty of people in this world that would do the work they do, but do it for free. Doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get paid.

            Same for those that might merely be chasing prestige. I don’t care WHY they wanted the job they have. It’s totally irrelevant. If they are qualified, they are earning their income.

            Replacement value is only one, small piece of determining what someone should be paid.

    • Aaron says:

      If you don’t pay office holders for serving the gov’t, it tends to:

      A. Result in office holders being more monolithically rich than they already are (More Donald Trumps)
      B. Cater more to the interests of the rich who will provide jobs, etc. after office (sound familiar?)
      C. Cause more outright corruption doing political favors for cash.

      We tried this in lots of different offices prior to the Progressive Movement. One of the key changes in the Progressive Movement was to pay office holders well enough to not have to take bribes, etc. We also did the same thing for other government employees such as police officers. These policies wound up being extremely beneficial in terms of lowering political corruption, and the pay increases were made up many fold with the massive reduction of corrupt bargains.

      While counter-intuitive at first glance with our budget the way it is, I think there’s more evidence to pay office holders significantly more than they are instead. Even taking the office of presidency into account, if paying the president one million dollars instead, if that helped to prevent just one political favor to a corporation like GE to eliminate an unneeded tax credit, that million dollars would be made up and then some.

      And the US has long passed the days where a president didn’t need to be independently wealthy. It’s virtually impossible for someone like Abraham Lincoln or Harry S. Truman to become president today.

      • Texas Wahoo says:

        I would be interested in seeing studies that have been done that show a correlation between presidential/senatorial pay and corruption. Do you have any links or suggestions?

        • Aaron says:

          I don’t have any, but you can go back to the history books about the Progressive Movement. Should be plenty of info about it. I studied it years ago while getting my college degree, which I subsequently don’t use as an IT Pro. 🙂

  3. Peter says:

    While the pay itself may not be that great compared to what some of these folks might earn in the private sector, I don’t think that’s why most folks run for the presidency – and I’m not sure it should be. In some respects I think politics has gotten away from being a public service and something citizens do as a service to their country, to something more where they do it to become part of the privileged political class. And while the president may not be paid that much while in office, you can be sure he’s set for life as far as income is concerned via book deals, speaking engagements and so forth.

  4. Is it possible to donate your refund back to the Treasury? I heard the president speak the other day and he was advocating returning to the the Clinton-era tax rates in the interest of “fairness.”

    I say, if you don’t think an effective tax rate of 26 or 27% is fair, send another 8%, or the remaining 73% of your income for that matter.

    As for returning to Clinton-era tax rates, I’d be all for it if we could also return to Clinton-era spending levels.

    • mannymacho says:

      “As for returning to Clinton-era tax rates, I’d be all for it if we could also return to Clinton-era spending levels.”


    • zapeta says:

      We could easily be at the Clinton spending levels if we weren’t fighting two unfunded wars. As for donating his return to the treasury, I’m sure you’d be willing to do that too, right? I mean, what is good for the goose is good for the gander….

      • Texas Wahoo says:

        He probably wouldn’t do it because he believes that the effective rate is fair. Why would he pay more than he thinks is fair voluntarily?

        • NateUVM says:

          You’ll notice that this President doesn’t take receipt of his refund. He applies it to the next year’s return.

          So, in that he doesn’t increase his withholdings to limit how much of his income is garnished, IN ADDITION TO not taking his refund, he IS paying more than he has to…in lost interest income that he’s allowing the US Treasury to collect instead of him.

          You were saying?

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            I believe we were talking about Jason@Frugal Dad, not President Obama.

            Personally, I got married this year, which cost us at least $10k in extra taxes due to the marriage penalty and the AMT. I could have stayed single and paid a lot less. I think I did my fair share of paying more.

          • NateUVM says:

            You voluntarily paid more…? Your post suggests that you are only making compulsory payments.

            And I apologize for the confusion. The post was on Obama. That’s who I thought was being referenced…

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            I voluntarily paid more by getting married. Had I not got married last year, I could have paid 10-15k less in taxes.

          • NateUVM says:

            So….you got married, voluntarily, in order to pay more taxes? There are easier ways to send the govt. more money, you know. You don’t HAVE to get married…

            Your wife know about this?

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            Of course she does. We are very open about financial considerations.

  5. mickey says:

    you said he got a refund because he made an over payment you did not say how much nhe actually paid HE DID PAY my son makes quarterly payments to and he also over paid YOU MAKE IT SOUND LIKE HE DIDNT PAY ANY TAX BUT IM SURE HE DID

    • eh, I’m not sure that many people would have jumped to the conclusion that he didn’t pay any taxes …

      It only takes a few seconds to click on the link to the actual return, go to page 2 of the 1040 … $453,770 in taxes.

  6. Bill $ says:

    The president keeps speaking about “people like me” when he discribes the “wealthy” (over 250K). There is a big difference between this reported income and 250K. I would suggest we need several layers of additional tax in this discussion. While I also feel EVERYONE should be paying something I also agree those with more can pay more. Also everyone above 250K should not be painted with same brush. If 250K is the magic number to start with increases they should be small and larger when you get to the Presidents income.

  7. Nate says:

    The Average person gives just over 2% The poor give the highest%, then the richest, then the middle. We give about 15% annually from the middle.

    “The average American household gives about two percent of adjusted gross income,” says Arthur Brooks, Syracuse University

  8. AF Chief, (Ret) says:

    Every one is missing the point. Who writes the Tax Laws, one guess, CONGRESS. So who has had control of Congress since 2007 until 2010, The Democrats and who was writing the Tax Code, none other than Tax Cheat Charles B. Rangel (D – NY). I have yet to see any Millionaire or Billionaire Democrat rushing to pay any additional income tax. The tax laws were written in their favor. Fair tax is the only fair answer. Fire the crooks in congress and their Chicago gangster boss. IS IT 2012 YET?

  9. PAT says:

    I think they should get paid by the hour four the time they actually work. That wouldn’t add up to much, vacation time like the rest of us. One week after a year of service, etc

  10. Carolyn says:

    Well, knock me over with a feather, because I thought that the salary for president of the USA, was at least $425,000 ! Why do CEO’s of companies recieve ( notice that I did not say ” earn ” ! ) millions of dollars, as well as other ” perks ” ? Perhaps Obama shoul not re-run, but take on a job as a CEO of some company, afterall he has not recieved the respect that he deserves as this country’s leader. Thank God, that the birth-certificate issue is over, now on to important matters ! !

  11. MARK CAMERON says:

    An comphrehensive look at Obama’s “generosity” is more revealing:
    2002 AGI $260,824 -contributions $1,050 .04%
    2003 AGI $238,327 -contributions $3,400 1.4%
    2004 AGI $207,624 -contributions $2,500 1.2%
    2005 AGI $1,679,995-contributions$77,315** 4.6%
    2006 AGI $991,296 – contributions$60,307 6.0%

    ** (includes $5,000 to Trinity Un. Church of Christ, $25,000 to the IL Reading Council, and $20,000 to the “Michelle Lee Fund”)
    Over the same period of time, Biden averaged

    contributions of just over $300 per year. … .01% how’s that for generosity?

    Their motto: “Let the gov’t take care of the poor”!

  12. Jim says:

    Wow!! I’m really surprise that there is so many stupid people in the United States.
    Yes we totally need to work on or education system , because of the stupidity we have bread into our society, in the last 50 yrs ,the people just don’t get it !
    The our government has done a great job of dividing 122 million people right down the middle (spending a hole lot of air time and Your Money on this) so they have everybody fighting the rich against the poor ? wait ! let me see where I have heard that one before ,( oh ! that right it was Fidal Castro ,Hugo Chaves,) Every dictator has use that phase. the poor against the rich

    When are you people going wake up , the government of the United States is playing you .
    The government makes no money , they take Your Money and decide how to spend it, are you so stupid you have to have big brother showing you how to spend your money , you know ! like when your where a child giving you an Allowance ??

    Our government is the biggest corporation in the world , ( they get paid big salaries and retirement packages) you really don’t think there living on Social Security, do you?
    they change the President every 4 to 8 yrs but the board of directors ( Congress ,Senate,) does not change , so by dividing We the People theGovernment put’s thru anything they want and We the People pay the Tab!!
    Wake up !! Quiting fighting and take a very hard look at what your government is doing to you.

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