Bushes' income tripled last year, return shows

April 16, 1992|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- George and Barbara Bush saw their family income triple last year to $1.3 million, thanks to whopping sales of "Millie's Book," an autobiographical tale ghost-written for the first dog.

But while the president and his wife donated all their after-tax book profits to charity, it did not begin at home.

Despite recent protests, the first couple continued to take advantage on their 1991 tax returns of provisions that allow them to avoid paying income taxes to Washington, D.C., or to either of the two states -- Texas and Maine -- where they also have residences.

In 1990, they saved about $30,000 by not paying income taxes to Washington, according to an estimate by Money magazine.

"It has nothing to do with income taxes," said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater when asked whether Mr. Bush had re-thought the fairness of his decision to claim residence in Texas, which has no state income tax levy. "His residency in Texas only has to do with his right to vote there."

But Texas state officials say he could continue to vote there even if he paid income taxes in the nation's capital. And that's what a consumer activist group protesting Mr. Bush's avoidance of the local levy thinks he should do.

"He's the president of our country and he should abide by a higher ethical standard," said Fred S. Azcarate, an organizer for Citizen Action. "He's sending the wrong message.

The Bushes' tax posture was also improved by their ability to take a $662,228 deduction for charitable donations.

Their charitable contributions totaled $818,803, including $789,176 in income from "Millie's Book" that went into the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The remaining $29,627 was divided among 47 other charities, although $677 was donated anonymously through the Bush's blind trust.

The blind trust, into which the Bush family holdings were placed when he became vice president, produced $197,047 in income last year -- almost as much as Mr. Bush earned from his $200,000 salary as president.

Mrs. Bush, who had to pay a self-employment tax of $10,247 last year because of her work on the best-selling "Millie" book, is not the only author in the family. But she is by far the most successful.

The president's autobiography, "Looking Forward," produced $2,718 in profits last year, about half of which was paid to his literary agent.

"This is somewhat embarrassing, but the president is taking it very well," Mr. Fitzwater said.

Despite Mr. Bush's opposition to federal financing of congressional campaigns, he and the first lady both earmarked $1 of their taxes for a presidential campaign fund that will give him $55.2 million.

Marilyn Quayle, the vice president's wife, also supplemented her family income last year with book royalties, earning $11,905 from "The Sisterhood," a novel she wrote with her sister.

The Quayles reported an adjusted gross income for 1991 of $181,652. Of that, $13,207 came in dividends on investments in companies whose identities are not shielded as the Bushes' are.

The dividends include $1,087 from stocks in several companies that Mrs. Quayle inherited from an aunt last year, some of which may have have an interest in actions by the Council on Competitiveness, which the vice president chairs.

Among those are Eli Lilly, which stands to benefit from the administration's plan to streamline drug approval procedures, and Ford and General Motors, which have strong interest in the council's work to thwart regulatory measures that would be costly to the automakers.

David Beckwith, the vice president's press secretary, told the Associated Press that Mrs. Quayle was seeking advice "about what to do about the situation."

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