Emphasis on the word may. Republican Study Committee chair Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) used a Congressional Research Service analysis to argue that Joe Biden is a tax scofflaw of the sort he proposes to catch by juicing the IRS for enforcement actions. At issue is whether Biden skipped out on a 3.8% Medicare tax on income from speaking gigs that ran into the millions of dollars.
Did he? Maybe, but if he did, it adds to a hefty payday for the Treasury:
Republicans say a new non-partisan report indicates President Joe Biden improperly avoided paying Medicare taxes before he took office — raising eyebrows and the possibility that he owes the IRS as much as $500,000 in back taxes.
Biden is leading a Democratic push for a $3.5 trillion bill to subsidize childcare, education and health care by targeting tax avoidance and raising tax rates on higher incomes so the rich “pay their fair share.”
A House Ways and Means Committee draft of the bill would end the accounting trick apparently exploited by Biden and boost IRS funding for audits — but the new report, drafted by the Congressional Research Service and provided to The Post, suggests Biden owes taxes under current rules, according to the congressman who requested it.
“Joe Biden wants to raise taxes by $2.1 trillion while claiming the rich need to pay their ‘fair share.’ But in 2017, multi-millionaire Joe Biden skirted his payroll taxes — the very taxes that fund Medicare and Obamacare,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Biden’s redirection of income through the S-corp loophole two years ago. At that time, it mostly reflected Biden’s hypocrisy in demanding to plug tax loopholes while exploiting them at the same time:
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden used a tax loophole that the Obama administration tried and failed to close, substantially lowering his tax bill.
Mr. Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, routed their book and speech income through S corporations, according to tax returns the couple released this week. They paid income taxes on those profits, but the strategy let the couple avoid the 3.8% self-employment tax they would have paid had they been compensated directly instead of through the S corporations.
The tax savings were as much as $500,000, compared to what the Bidens would have owed if paid directly or if the Obama proposal had become law.
“There’s no reason for these to be in an S corp—none, other than to save on self-employment tax,” said Tony Nitti, an accountant at RubinBrown LLP who reviewed the returns. …
Mr. Biden has decried the proliferation of such loopholes since Ronald Reagan’s presidency and said the tax revenue could be used, in part, to help pay for initiatives to provide free community-college tuition or to fight climate change.
The WSJ hinted that Trump might have also used the same strategy to avoid taxes, but Trump didn’t run on closing that loophole. Barack Obama and Joe Biden did. And both Obama and Biden railed on extensively on how the tax system was set up for the wealthy and disadvantages the common taxpayer, so there is a stench of hypocrisy to this.
If this was a legal option, then there’s not much of a story, perhaps not even on hypocrisy. Why would Biden pay taxes on income if the law allowed him to avoid it? The optics for a class-warfare artist like Biden might be awkward (especially for stiffing Medicare!), but if this was a legal option, Biden would have been a chump to pass it up. As Trump himself might say.
But is Biden a tax scofflaw? Was it legal for Biden to use this loophole? The CRS report doesn’t actually take a position on this specific case, but does note that courts generally take a dim view of people who route income through S corps rather than just take dividends from them. The parameters of those decisions do seem to litigate against Biden’s routing of speaking fees through his S corp, since that seems to be the S corp’s sole purpose and Biden’s money isn’t flowing from actual investments. If the IRS chose to take Biden to court over the tax dodge, it’s reasonable to think that Biden might lose the case, but (a) no one’s taking him to court, and (b) it’s not necessarily a slam dunk.
It’s an amusing story nonetheless, and one for which both the White House and the IRS need to answer. But don’t expect much to come from this other than more sloganeering for tax hikes on everyone else. I’d doubt that Biden even bothers to touch the S-corp loophole this time around, either.