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'Millie's Book' Sends Bushes' Income Soaring

April 16, 1992|DOUGLAS JEHL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — A bestseller written by the First Lady on behalf of her dog sent the income of President Bush and his wife, Barbara, soaring to more than $1.3 million last year, according to their tax return, which was released by the White House on Wednesday.

The Bushes donated all of their $789,176 in after-tax proceeds from "Millie's Book" to a literacy foundation.

The 1991 federal tax return also showed that the Bushes paid only about 15%, or $204,841, in taxes on their adjusted gross income of $1,324,456. They claimed $669,484 in itemized deductions, nearly all of it from donations to the literacy foundation and 49 other charities. They were entitled to a $6,193 refund but chose to apply it to their 1992 taxes.

The couple once again paid no state or local income taxes, enjoying an exemption granted to elected officials in Washington, D.C., and taking advantage of their official residency in Texas, where no such taxes are imposed.

The White House also reported that the couple collected an undisclosed sum in federal flood insurance to cover part of an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 in storm damage inflicted last autumn at their summer home in Kennebunkport, Me.

A spokesman said the reimbursement did not cover all damages, but he added that Bush chose not to claim a tax deduction on the loss to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. As President, Bush declared Maine a federal disaster area and could have taken advantage of that status to claim a tax advantage offered to residents claiming losses from the storm.

The Bushes' earnings of $889,176 in pre-tax royalties from "Millie's Book"--a dog's-eye view of the White House written by Barbara Bush as if she were the family dog, Millie--made up by far the largest component of their total income.

Bush was paid an additional $200,000 in presidential salary, and the couple also reported $197,047 in income from their blind trust, $1,151 in interest income and $1,359 from other sources.

The nearly $900,000 in royalties earned by Barbara Bush from her first book dwarfed the $2,291 earned in 1991 by the President for sales of his 1988 campaign autobiography, "Looking Forward."

"Millie's Book," a volume thick with photographs of the English springer spaniel posing with politicians and other celebrities, was a bestseller for seven months in 1990 and 1991. Barbara Bush had said in advance that she would donate all royalties to her Foundation for Family Literacy.

So successful was the book, however, that the Bushes were not permitted under tax law to claim a 1991 tax deduction for the full value of those charitable contributions. Including deductions for taxes paid and investment expenses, they could claim only the $669,484, the maximum allowable for their income. They will be permitted to carry over $156,575 to be claimed as deductions in future years.

The release of the tax returns followed a pattern established by Bush since he took office as vice president 11 years ago. Marlin Fitzwater, his chief spokesman, urged that other presidential candidates also make their tax records public.

But at day's end, neither Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas nor his remaining Democratic challenger, former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. had come forward with their own returns.

Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Clinton, said Wednesday afternoon that the Democratic front-runner would submit his tax records to the Internal Revenue Service in advance of the midnight deadline and would "turn 'em loose in a couple of days."

Brown has not said whether he will release his tax returns.

Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn, also released 1991 tax returns Wednesday. The documents showed that the couple paid $45,271 in taxes on adjusted income of $181,652, amounting to a federal tax burden of 25%. Quayle's salary for the year was $160,000.

Their income included $28,875 in rent from a house they own in McLean, Va., and dividend income of $13,207. It also included $11,905 that Marilyn Quayle earned from a partnership with her sister in the writing of a novel, "Embrace the Serpent."

What the President Pays

The income of President Bush and his wife, Barbara, soared last year, propelled by profits from the First Lady's bestseller, "Millie's Book." Here is a breakdown of their return:

'91 '90 *Adjusted gross income $1,324,456 $452,732 *Itemized deductions $669,484 $97,118 *Taxes paid $204,841 $99,241

1991 Income Includes: Presidential salary: $200,000 Royalties from First Lady's book (after-tax proceeds donated to literacy foundation): $889,176 Income from blind trust: $197,047 Royalties from President's autobiography: $2,291 Refund due from government: $6,193 Remainder includes interest income and various other sources

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