Why Bush Prefers Texas to Texas

CARL ROWAN

April 20, 1992|By CARL ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington. George Bush is the doggone luckiest politician alive. White House Pooch Millie upstages him by pawing out a book (as told to Barbara Bush) and earns $889,176 in royalties. That fascinates the media, which ignores or buries the fact that President Bush just saved at least $30,000 in taxes by continuing the fiction that he is a resident of Texas.

Now everyone, including the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, knows that the Bushes don't live in Texas, and that by the laws you and I live by, they should be paying taxes to the District of Columbia or the state of Maine.

But Texas has no income tax, so the Bushes claim residency there, a little ''legal'' wrinkle that saved them at least $30,000 in 1990, according to Money magazine.

To justify his claim to Texas residency, Mr. Bush has kept a room in a hotel there, a hotel which, in some measure of poetic if not IRS justice, recently declared bankruptcy.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater tells the press that claiming residency in Texas has nothing to do with tax dodging, only with Mr. Bush retaining the right to vote there. But the law is clear that the president could pay D.C. taxes and still vote in Texas.

While I don't think the tax savings from ''Texas residency'' are immaterial, I think this is a case of deviousness to achieve political advantage. Winning Texas in the November presidential election can be of critical importance, and Mr. Bush obviously wants voters in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio to think of him as ''a fellow Texan.''

Still, it galls many Americans, especially activists like Fred S. Azcarate of Citizen Action, that Mr. Bush gets away with a residency scam that reduces his tax bill. ''He's the president of our country and he should abide by a higher ethical standard,'' Mr. Azcarate says.

People who live in the District of Columbia and license their cars in Virginia can be in tough trouble. I recently watched a young mother with a baby in her arms pleading in vain as the cops towed away her improperly-licensed auto.

I know D.C. residents who avoid high income taxes here by claiming residency in Florida, which has no income tax. They sweat, and hope that the IRS will give them the closed, see-no-evil, eye that it has given George Bush.

Citizen Action has an unassailable point. Taxpayers who are already inclined to cheat because they think ''everybody does it'' become emboldened to hold back money from Uncle Sam when they see the president playing games about where he resides.

If we just stopped the phony claims of residency in the no-income-tax states, we might fatten the federal Treasury to the point that we could balance the budget.

Mr. Bush might find that to be a greater political asset than his expectation that the people of Big D will vote for him just because he's ''a fellow Texan.''

Carl Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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