Clintons paid 10% of income to charity 1995 income was $316,000, their tax returns show

April 13, 1996|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, donated 10 percent of their income to charity last year, an example praised yesterday by charitable groups.

For the second year in a row, the Clintons gave about $30,000 to charity, according to their 1995 return made public yesterday. Their income was just over $316,000.

Details of the Clintons' charitable giving were not released but White House press secretary Mike McCurry said roughly two-thirds went to the three churches the family attend regularly. The rest was divided among 22 charities and colleges they attended.

"Giving 10 percent at that rate of income is certainly better than the average," said Liz Greco, vice president of the American Foundation for the Blind. "It sets a good example for other individuals."

Ann Kaplan, research director for the New York-based American Association of Fundraising Council, said the median charitable donation per family is about 2 percent of income. She said that figure is a bit misleading, however, because in every income bracket a small but generous minority of givers accounts for about half of total donations.

Mr. Clinton and his wife paid $75,437 in federal income tax. This amount might have been significantly lower except for the president's own opposition to Republican plans to cut the tax rate on capital gains, which are profits on investments. In addition to his $200,000 salary, the Clintons realized capital gains of about $88,441 -- more than twice as much as the year before.

The nature of this gain is not apparent from the tax return because it comes from activities of a blind trust.

Robert O. Bothwell, president of the Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, characterized the Clintons' giving as "superb," and expressed hope that it would provide impetus for increased corporate giving, which has declined to less than 1 percent. Mr. Bothwell said that President Ronald Reagan was successful in encouraging corporate giving -- and he hoped Mr. Clinton would do the same.

The Clintons' philanthropic contributions appear to be in line with those of recent presidents. In 1990, for example, George and Barbara Bush reported $38,667 in contributions to 50 charities on income of $453,000.

In 1985, Ronald and Nancy Reagan contributed $23,299 to charity; in 1986, that number rose to $30,487. Their income was about halfway between the Clintons' and the Bushes'.

The Clintons have not always benefited from the pressure on presidents and prominent politicians to release their tax returns.

As governor of Arkansas, Mr. Clinton made his return public -- with the glaring exception of 1979 and 1980. After being elected president the reason became apparent -- Hillary Clinton's $100,000 profit from commodities futures trading.

In re-creating those transactions, the Clintons' accountants discovered that the family had underpaid their taxes from those years. Two years ago, they wrote a check to the IRS and the state of Arkansas for $14,615.

A second embarrassing episode came when reporters combing through pages of Clinton charitable deductions learned that in past years the Clintons had seen fit to write off such donations as his used underwear.

A third headache concerned the Whitewater affair. Various investigators have concluded that the Clintons took improper interest deductions for loan repayments. White House officials deny any wrongdoing.

In the last two years, the president has avoided these problems since most of the family's assets are now in the blind trust.

Yesterday, Mr. Clinton sounded -- along with many Americans -- as though he had second thoughts about his tax bill.

"Taxes -- they're too high!" Mr. McCurry quipped during his daily session with reporters. "People need tax relief -- obviously, including Bill and Hillary Clinton."

Earlier, when Mr. McCurry asked the president privately whether he felt he paid "a fair amount" in taxes, the president replied ruefully, "Sure looks like it."

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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