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Sanders Evades Tax Question

When asked about releasing his “full” federal tax returns, Sen. Bernie Sanders insisted that “we have released them in the past.” But Sanders has released only his 1040 form, a two-page summary of his federal returns, not his full returns.

Sanders, who is one of the least wealthy members of the Senate, was asked about releasing his tax returns on CNN’s “State of Union.” Jake Tapper, the show’s anchor, accurately stated that Sanders had released the 1040 two-page summary page of his 2014 tax returns, but not the full returns. Tapper asked Sanders if he would release the full tax returns for the past eight years, as his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has done on her website.

Here’s the exchange:

Tapper, April 3: Before the New York primary, will you match her? Will you post your full returns for the last eight years?

Sanders: You know, we are not — you know, to be very honest with you, you know who does our tax returns? My wife does our tax returns. We have been a little bit busy lately.

So, we will get out as much information as we can. There ain’t going to be very much exciting in that. I get a salary from the United States Senate. You know, there’s not going to be anything new in it that there hasn’t — people haven’t seen for the last many years, but we will get it out as soon as we can.

Tapper: But nobody — nobody has seen them at all, I guess, is the point. And whether or not there’s anything exciting in them …

Sanders: No, that is not true. That is — that is not true. Of course, we have released them in the past.

Has Sanders released his “full returns” in the past? No.

We asked Michael Briggs, a Sanders campaign spokesman, twice about the senator’s tax returns and twice we got virtually the same response. “He released 2014 federal and state returns and will release 2015 returns after he files with the IRS,” Briggs said.

But Tapper’s question was about Sanders releasing his full returns, so Sanders and his spokesman are wrong to say that Sanders did release his tax returns.

As the Washington Post Fact Checker pointed out, the nonprofit Tax Analysts archives tax returns released by presidential candidates. In the 2016 field, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the most transparent, releasing 34 years of tax returns, from 1981 through 2014. The site also has 15 years of tax returns released by Hillary Clinton, dating to her race for Senate in 2000, plus another eight years that were released by her husband, Bill, when he was a presidential candidate and president.

Bush’s 2013 tax return, for example, is 62 pages long, and Clinton’s 2014 return is 44 pages. The two candidates released not only the 1040 two-page summary, but also Schedule A for itemized deductions, Schedule B for interest and dividends, and other forms that detail assets and income.

We asked the Sanders campaign twice if the senator, who has been in Congress since 1991, has released any tax information other than in 2014. We got no answer to that question.

But our fact-checking colleague at the Washington Post came across a 1996 news article about Sanders’ 1995 1040 form. The article, which appeared in a Vermont publication called Seven Days, was headlined “El Cheapo!” and focused on the $1,369 that Sanders donated to charity. The article also shows that Sanders reported a total income of $125,842, claimed $25,372 in itemized deductions and paid $19,563 in federal taxes.

In 2014, Sanders earned $205,617, claimed $56,377 in itemized deductions, and paid $27,653 in taxes. That’s an effective tax rate of 13.4 percent.

Sanders isn’t the only candidate to make public only his 1040 form. The Tax Analysts website shows only 1040 forms for Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and no tax information for Donald Trump, who has said he “can’t” release tax returns because he is under a federal audit. As we have written, there is no law prohibiting Trump from releasing his tax returns. Any taxpayer may authorize the public release of tax information by signing an IRS Form 8821.