Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 18, 2009
POLITICS: Sarah Palin's Taxes

Given the battery of problems President Obama's Cabinet nominees and prominent Democrats have had paying their taxes, Democrats are undoubtedly relieved to see that a review by the State of Alaska has concluded that one very prominent Republican - Governor Sarah Palin - also owes the IRS money (H/T). The facts about Palin's taxes, however, are dramatically different from those of Democrats like Tim Geithner, the man who now oversees enforcement of the tax code. Here's why.

The issue raised back in October was whether Gov. Palin should have reported as income the per diem reimbursements she receives for meals and other expenses on days doing state business at her home in Wasilla instead of the governor's mansion in Juneau; as the AP notes, "Juneau, in the Alaska Panhandle 600 miles from Wasilla, is only accessible by airplane or ship." (We looked at the merits of the per diem reimbursements, which were dramatically lower than those collected by her predecessor, back in September). The McCain-Palin campaign responded by producing a legal opinion from tax counsel noting that the State of Alaska has traditionally not treated these reimbursements as income to state employees and has not included them on Forms W-2. Palin followed up by ordering the state Department of Administration to conduct a review of that policy. Unlike the Democrats, so many of whom seem to be playing entirely by rules of their own, the review affects other state employees besides the Governor:

Some other state employees also owe back income taxes for travel payments and will be getting revised tax forms, Annette Kreitzer, state administration commissioner, said in an e-mail.

She wouldn't say which, or how many, employees will be receiving the notifications.

As the Anchorage Daily News report (which also details back taxes owed by newly-elected Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich on a car provided to him) notes, Alaska has to deal with a whole separate set of rules for state legislators:

The new determination by administration officials won't affect state lawmakers, said Pam Varni, director of the Legislative Affairs agency.

Under IRS guidelines, legislators receive tax-free payments to help with living expenses while in Juneau for the legislative session -- if their home is at least 50 miles away, Varni said.

The current rate, set by the U.S. Department of Defense, is $189 a day. That goes to everyone except the three Juneau-based legislators, who get smaller payments that are taxed as compensation.

Legislators can also charge the state $150 a day for time spent on state business when the Legislature is not in session, but those payments are taxed as income, Varni said.

Have fun keeping all that straight. One of my longstanding beefs with the picayune complexity of the campaign finance laws is applicable to tax law as well: if you wouldn't want a politician you support getting un-elected or indicted for violating the rules, maybe the rules are just too complicated.

Anyway, Palin's situation, in which her tax preparer reported only the income on her W-2, is rather dramatically different from that of, say, Geithner, who was given a manual by his employer explaining the taxability of his benefits and reimbursement for the taxes, and he still didn't pay them, and paid back less than all the back taxes he owed (only enough to avoid an enforcement action). Here, the state had a mistaken policy that appears to have predated her tenure as Governor, and that affected other people besides her. It's embarrassing, to be sure, but efforts to seize on the story are simply a sign of the Democrats' desperation to divert attention away from the beam in their own eye.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:32 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I'm shocked, shocked to find that you are giving Princess Sarah a pass. She took the public's money as a per diem expense for staying at home and then didn't pay taxes. In the grand scheme of Palin idiocy, this is a minor matter, but I find you reaction humorous now that the whoe is on the other foot.

I'm not shocked, however, by the cryptic description you give of Sen. Begich's issue. In short, as mayor, he declined a public car, was told he had to get one for security, etc., got a used police vehicle, gave it up after finding out he owed taxes.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 18, 2009 7:40 PM

Crank is engaging in partisan apologetics, and its disingenuous to say the least. Palin isnt the only one trying to avoid the law, Boehner doesnt report paid family trips either on his taxes yet you dont see the "liberal" MSM media giving that much play. Palin is corrupt. She abused the power of her office, her AG resigned last week for trying to squelch the troopergate subpeonas, she charged the state 17 grand for getting to stay at her house with the chitlins...I dont care whether that's "allowed", its not what a reformer does. She's billed the state for her kids joining her on her "business" trips, and on and on.

I do understand the desperation with which conservatives are trying to cultivate the next shooting star in their party after the electoral asskicking, but this rationalizing of Palin's behavior...including her infamous lies about rejecting the Bridge to Nowhere...is getting ridiculous.

Posted by: robert at February 18, 2009 8:15 PM

Robert is engaging in partisan demagoguery by lying about "troopergate" and omitting the facts of the per diem issue.

I do understand that this may be a result of watching too much MSNBC and can be treated with help.

Posted by: Sav at February 18, 2009 8:29 PM

Hold on, a politician lied on her taxes?

What will we tell the children?

Here's an idea: the tax code is up for full review every ten years. Like a census, but with taxes. That way, states can do all sorts of different experiments and we can see what tends to work.

Either that or kick a lawyer in the balls today.

Posted by: Zufall at February 18, 2009 9:12 PM

I'm not a big fan of Governor Palin politically, but this issue is really BS. As far as I can tell, it's a legitimate issue of clarifying what is taxable and what is not, and she's never really tried to avoid paying when there was a ruling against her. Which does differ from Geithner's non-payment of things he'd been explicitly told he owed, or Daschele's very sluggish response, and lack of honesty to Obama himself, when informed about what he really owed.

Posted by: Jerry at February 18, 2009 11:38 PM

Jerry is right; on this issue at least, Geithner and, especially, Daschle, are the more culpable. Can we move on now?

Posted by: Magrooder at February 19, 2009 9:24 AM

What I find fascinating is that the liberal world is not mentioning the fact that Palin is the one who requested the clarification.

SJR
The Pink Flamingo

Posted by: SJReidhead at February 19, 2009 9:56 AM

I don't think this is the end of the world for Palin, as much as I dislike her. I am not convinced that she intentionally evaded a clear tax liability but I question the initial taking of the per diem in the first place. It is one thing to say the "law allowed it", but we all know its one of those things that perhaps the law shouldnt allow, or is at least amenable to overcharging abuse. Why should the taxpayers have to buy her lunches when she is doing business at home? And as a supposed "reform" agent she could have set an example by declining the per diem. In the end however, this is small beer compared to her actual governing policies, and I think it is important that Palin's critics not get too exercised over something like this.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 19, 2009 10:14 AM

There are more layers to be peeled off in this story. The Anchorage Daily News just published Palin's expense reports for November and December, which include "per diem" charges to the taxpayers for "an appearance on Fox News", a "phone call to Liddy Dole", and a "phone call to Ed Rendell". Heck, at $60 bucks a pop I'll put aside my revulsion and call Liddy Dole too.

Posted by: dante at February 19, 2009 1:14 PM

It's a pity that many of those commenting here haven't bothered to read your posting properly. Governor Palin instituted the review of per diem payments herself AND the requirement to now pay tax is a revised policy. In other words THE POLICY IS A NEW ONE, IT DIDN'T EXIST BEFORE GOVERNOR PALIN HERSELF ASKED FOR A REVIEW.

Posted by: iac at February 19, 2009 3:23 PM

Those who are praising Palin for instituting the review and claiming that the policy is new should look at the state policy, which was available publicly at the time this issue was first raised and which suggested that Wasila should have been treated by the State as Palin's tax home under its existing policy in 2007 and 2008, prior to the review, with the result that the State should have considered the per diems taxable. You can read it in full on my discussion of Palin's tax issues on my blog, ataxingmatter, at this link http://ataxingmatter.blogs.com/tax/2008/10/sarah-palins-tax-returns-part-ii.html

Posted by: Linda Beale at February 19, 2009 7:20 PM

You liberals are crazy and grasping at straws. Even if all these negative things are true about Palin, I would rather have a real person who would fight for morals and values than a President who supports throwing babies in closets to die if they survive partial birth abortions. Yes America, please pat yourself on the back for the woooooooonderful job you did in the election.

Posted by: walt at February 20, 2009 2:22 AM

You liberals are crazy and grasping at straws. Even if all these negative things are true about Palin, I would rather have a real person who would fight for morals and values than a President who supports throwing babies in closets to die if they survive partial birth abortions. Yes America, please pat yourself on the back for the woooooooonderful job you did in the election.

Posted by: walt at February 20, 2009 2:23 AM

"[A] President who supports throwing babies in closets to die if they survive partial birth abortions."

Yeah, you're right Crank, the stupid people support Obama.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 20, 2009 9:27 AM

Magrooder,

That is a surprisingly candid admission. Appreciate the honesty.

Posted by: Largebill at February 20, 2009 10:20 AM

Largebill,

Sarcasm, irony. Have someone read a dictionary to you and explain what the multi-syllabal words mean.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 20, 2009 11:22 PM

Magrooder,

I understood that you were attempting to be sarcastic when you made the admission that stupid people voted for Obama.

Separately, it is ironic that you would misspell a word (syllable) while telling me to read a dictionary. So, that is twice today you have provided humor and for that I thank you.

All the best,
Bill

Posted by: Largebill at February 20, 2009 11:50 PM

Bill,

Not surprisingly, you still don't get it. Let's try the direct approach. Crank frequently implies that stupid people vote for Obama. Ditto-heads like you instinctively agree.

Walt and others repeat the inane commentary of the Limbuaghs, Hannitys, Malkins, et al, thinking they are true. In fact, they are not.

Watch the new Alexandra Pelosi documentary on HBO and listen to the McCain supporters.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 21, 2009 5:15 PM

Magrooder,


Did you happen to catch the video that was made of the Obama voters on election day? The one in which the interviewees new next to nothing about Obama himself much less anyone else on the ballot?


This isn't to say those folks are dumb, but the left is anything but ignorance-free.

Posted by: Sav at February 22, 2009 12:13 AM

All politicians have some supporters who are dumb as rocks, just as all have some who are crazy, racist, violent, dishonest, what have you. And all try to win votes with their images and personalities, etc.

What is unique about Obama, at least among any president since Kennedy (even Clinton) is the extent to which he has this celebrity cult of personality, completely unconnected from political substance of any kind. Combine that with the expressly racial nature of much of the appeals made on his behalf (and sometimes from his own mouth), and you have a recipe for a base of support that frankly deserves to be mocked.

Posted by: Crank at February 22, 2009 12:31 AM

Crank,
Is your problem with Obama that he's a Democrat?
I ask because usually you support people who have been miserable failures and 100% wrong about everything.
Check out the clowns (aka Financial executives) on Wall Street. Do you really think ANYONE should listen to them about anything having to do with economics? Let's face it Wall Street executives and corporate CEOs have a celebrity cult of personality, completely unconnected from financial substance of any kind. Combine that with the reckless nature of their appeals (tax breaks for the rich paid for on the backs of the country's working class) and you have a recipe for a base support that frankly needs to be mocked 24x7x365 until the end of time.

Posted by: Berto at February 22, 2009 7:23 PM

Crank is correct of course that there are idiots, racists, etc. among supporters of every political figure. Many of the comments and some of the posts here ascribe those characteristics solely to one side.

Crank's oft-repeated assertion that Obama lacks "political substance of any kind" is fallacious for two reasons.

First, and most obviously, he has been President for over a month and has made decisions, issued orders, etc. So, even if you believe that he had no "political substance" before, there is no legitimate basis for continuing to make that assertion.

Second, Crank defines "political substance" in a particular way so that the conclusion he wants to reach is reached on the basis of seemingly objective criteria (e.g., the "qualifications for president" posts of last year). It is his blog, so fair enough, but others do not share that definition. I believe that a candidate's intelligence, character, temperament, and ability to engage an lead the country are more important (these criteria suggesting that recent Democratic candidates like Kerry and Gore would not have made good Presidents).

Go after Obama all you will on policy choices and decisions, that is what democracy is all about. Mock them if you want. And, don't worry, we won't call you un-American or unpatriotic if you do (in contrast to what we heard for 8 years). But, if you claim there is no "political substance," you are the ones deserving of mockery and you make the job easier by making a mockery of yourselves.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 23, 2009 10:09 AM

"Go after Obama all you will on policy choices and decisions"

Gee, do we have your permission? That's swell.


"And, don't worry, we won't call you un-American or unpatriotic if you do"

This is what is known as a falsehood.

"(in contrast to what we heard for 8 years"

Yeah, the left would never do that. They'd just say those they disagree with are starting wars and putting soldiers' lives on the line for revenge/money/personal reasons. You know, treasonous things.

Or how about that those they disagree with hate (insert your group here) and can't think for themselves.

But the left, they are victims. Always.

Posted by: Sav at February 27, 2009 8:48 AM
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