The President’s 2011 Tax Return


The Obama administration released the president’s tax return Friday morning, four days ahead of the Tuesday filing date deadline. We’ve spent the day poring over the numbers and highlighted some of the interesting bits in our second-annual infographic of the first family’s tax return.

First Family's 2011 Tax Return

You can see the Obamas’ 2010 tax return here.

We ran the numbers by Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. To him, the return jibed, and nothing looked out of the ordinary.

Making Sense

“There’s nothing unusual going on in this return,” Williams told us. “There are no surprises in this, which I think is the bottom line.”

Most of Obama’s income came from being president — just shy of $400,000 — and book sales — another $441,000. The family’s adjusted gross income of $789,674 was lower than the $1.7 million earned the year before mostly due to book sales. And in 2009, the family’s income was more than $5.5 million due to book sales and Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize award money.

“There are two kinds of presidents. There’s the normal Joe, and we don’t see those anymore,” Williams said. “When Harry Truman was president, his income was from being president. He didn’t have any outside income, he didn’t have any businesses, he was just a president.

“Then you get the people who are wealthy to begin with. If Mitt Romney gets elected, his tax return will be very different because he will have all his outside income, and being president will just be a pit in the ocean compared to his total income. And then you’ve got someone like Obama, where about half his income is from becoming president, and the other half of his income is from stuff that he did before, so he’s getting residual payments for that. But they don’t dominate the rest of his income,” Williams said.

And what of the Obamas’ future? The return notes $49,000 was socked away into a retirement fund.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions