Bernie Sanders Released His Tax Returns. He’s Part of the 1%.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in his office at the Capitol last week.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
By Thomas Kaplan
WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, disclosed 10 years of tax returns on Monday, providing a more detailed look at his finances than what he offered when he ran for the White House in 2016.
The returns show that Mr. Sanders’s earnings shot up after his first presidential bid, when he built up a vast national following. He and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, reported income that topped $1 million in 2016 and 2017, lifted by proceeds from his books.
The couple had an adjusted gross income of $561,293 in 2018, according to
their most recent tax return. Mr. Sanders had about $393,000 in book income last year, and he and his wife reported giving nearly $19,000 to charity.
Their federal taxes came to $145,840, for an effective federal tax rate of 26 percent.
Mr. Sanders’s higher income in recent years has created some political awkwardness for the senator, who in his 2016 presidential campaign frequently railed against “millionaires and billionaires” and their influence over the political process.
His income now puts him within the top 1 percent of taxpayers, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.
“These tax returns show that our family has been fortunate,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement. “I am very grateful for that, as I grew up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck and I know the stress of economic insecurity.”
The issue of tax returns has been in the spotlight because of President Trump’s refusal to release his own, a position that defies decades of tradition. House Democrats are now demanding to see his returns.
Mr. Sanders’s handling of the issue received attention in the 2016 race, when Hillary Clinton, his main rival for the Democratic nomination, pushed him to divulge years of tax returns, as she had done. At the time, Mr. Sanders said his wife did their taxes. “We’ve been a little bit busy lately,” he said during a debate. “You’ll excuse us.”
In that campaign, Mr. Sanders disclosed his tax return for only one year, 2014, which showed that he and his wife had an adjusted gross income of $205,271, largely from his Senate salary and Social Security benefits.
More recently, Mr. Sanders has come under criticism for his expanding personal wealth. A post on the website ThinkProgress last week called Mr. Sanders’s millionaire status “very off-brand and embarrassing,” and a video suggested he had stopped referring to “millionaires” after he became one himself. The website is run by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the sister organization of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
On Saturday, Mr. Sanders fired back, accusing the think tank of “using its resources to smear” him and other progressive presidential candidates. The think tank was founded in 2003 by John D. Podesta, a close Clinton ally who served as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman in 2016. (The editor in chief of ThinkProgress said in a statement that the site was an “editorially independent journalistic entity.”)
Tax returns released by other Democratic presidential candidates have shown that they also earned more than a vast majority of American households in recent years. Senator Kamala Harris of California and her husband reported an adjusted gross income of about $1.9 million last year, while Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and her husband had $846,394 in adjusted gross income.
Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas also disclosed 10 years of tax returns on Monday, though not his 2018 return. He and his wife, Amy O’Rourke, reported $366,455 in adjusted gross income on their 2017 return.
The couple reported donating $1,166 to charity that year, just three-tenths of 1 percent of their income, though it is possible they made other donations not listed on their personal return.
The filings showed the extent to which the O’Rourkes have benefited financially from family wealth. Mr. O’Rourke’s income was boosted over the years through his interest, passed to him by his parents, in a shopping mall and an apartment complex. Ms. O’Rourke collects dividends and interest from family partnerships established by her father, the real estate investor William D. Sanders (no relation to Bernie Sanders). In some years, that dividend and interest income contributed over $100,000.
A picture of Senator Sanders’s finances was already available through his annual Senate financial disclosure filings, but the tax returns provide a precise accounting of the income earned by Mr. Sanders and his wife over the years. Their 2018 return indicated it was self-prepared.
In the past three years, their income has soared as a result of Mr. Sanders’s book writing. His book “Our Revolution” was published shortly after the 2016 election, and a young-adult book, the “Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution,” followed the next year. Another book, “Where We Go From Here,” was published last year.
Mr. Sanders reported receiving about $840,000 in book income in 2016 and about $856,000 in 2017. Ms. Sanders listed about $106,000 in income as a book author in 2017. The Sanders campaign said Ms. Sanders had received an advance for a book she is writing “about Jane and Bernie’s experiences together in public service.”
In an interview with The New York Times last week, Mr. Sanders acknowledged that he had become a millionaire.