Palin failed to pay taxes on her per diem payments

In an overview of Sarah Palin’s tax returns for 2006 and 2007, which she has finally released, the Associated Press reports that Palin neglected to pay the taxes due on $17,000 she received in per diem payments as Governor of Alaska. A McCain campaign official claims, falsely, that Palin owed no taxes on those payments.

Sarah Palin makes $125,000 a year as Alaska governor. Plus, since she took the job in December 2006, she hasn’t paid taxes on the more than $17,000 she received in controversial per diem payments for working out of the family’s lakeside home in Wasilla…

Regarding the per diem dispute, [McCain-Palin spokeswoman Maria] Comella said Juneau is the governor’s home base and therefore whenever she works elsewhere, she is entitled to charge the state. Comella contended the per diem payments are not taxable.

[Former IRS commissioner Sheldon] Cohen said it was fine for the state of Alaska to determine it was okay to reimburse Palin to work out of her home, but the state’s decision didn’t mean those benefits were not taxable by the federal government. “One has nothing to do with the other,” said Cohen.

It’s very clear that taxes were due on these per diems. This is tax evasion by Sarah Palin, pure and simple. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of Richard Nixon’s utter failure to pay any taxes for a few years while he was president. But what a standard to be flirting with.

Palin’s per diems are themselves controversial. She billed the state of Alaska nearly $17,000 for 312 nights she spent at her house in Wasilla. Because the governor has a mansion in Juneau and is supposed to reside and work there (though she is in fact absent far more than she’s present in the capital), she may be permitted technically under state regulations to claim a per diem for lodging while she’s staying at her own home. But it looks pretty cynical to claim to be a reformer while seeking payments for living at home. That’s particularly true since Palin also billed the state to fly her husband and children around the state, to the tune of more than $43,000. Once Palin brought one of her daughters with her at great expense to a Women and Leadership conference in New York City, where they stayed in an extremely luxurious hotel.

Asked Monday about the official policy on charging for children’s travel expenses, [Alaska state finance director Kim] Garnero said: “We cover the expenses of anyone who’s conducting state business. I can’t imagine kids could be doing that.”

But [Palin's spokeswoman Sharon] Leighow said many of the hundreds of invitations Palin receives include requests for her to bring her family, placing the definition of “state business” with the party extending the invitation.

The revelations about her per diems suggest that Palin plays fast and loose with rules in order to enrich herself. The same impression is given by the AP’s analysis of Palin’s tax returns. She and her husband have managed to take so many deductions, some seemingly dubious, that they’ve avoided paying taxes on much of their income.

For the 2007 tax year, Todd Palin’s self-employment brought him $66,893 in gross receipts — $49,893 from fishing and $17,000 from snowmachine racing. But, the returns show, he claimed so many deductions that he reported only $15,513 net profit from the fishing operation and claimed a $9,639 loss from his racing, leaving him with an overall net income of only $5,874.

Those deductions enabled the Palins, who have four dependent children, to enjoy a 15 percent tax rate for 2007 and a rate of less than 10 percent for 2006.

This family, with assets worth between about 1 and 2 million dollars, is not struggling just to get by. Instead, it’s working to figure out every angle it can exploit.

I have to say I’ve been awaiting the day when Palin’s tax returns were released, expecting that it would turn out that she’d neglected to pay taxes on her controversial per diems. She did not fail to disappoint.

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