This story was originally published in The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal on Oct. 3, 1973. It won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.
President and Mrs. Nixon paid a total of $1,670.84 in federal income tax in 1970 and 1971 and received $131,503.84 in tax refunds for those years, the Journal-Bulletin has learned.
According to documents provided by government sources, the Nixons paid $792.81 in federal income tax in 1970, while receiving a $72,614.43 tax refund that year.
In 1971, the documents show the Nixons paid $878.03 in taxes and got a $58,889.41 refund.
Taxes paid by the Nixons in 1970-71 are roughly equivalent to taxes paid by someone who earns about $7,000 a year, claims one exemption and does not itemize deductions, according to tax manuals. President Nixon’s salary is $200,000 a year.
A telephone request yesterday to the office of Gerald L. Warren, the White House deputy press secretary, for comment on the tax information went unanswered.
The documents refute earlier news accounts that the Nixons probably did not pay any taxes in 1970 or 1971, thus becoming members of the so-called “zero taxpayers list” of people with adjusted gross incomes in excess of $200,000 who paid no federal income tax.
The documents support the claim of an unnamed White House source who told the Washington Post that the Nixons have paid taxes in each year of his presidency. The White House source refused to say how much they paid.
Although none of the news accounts concerning the Nixon tax situation for the two years in question mentioned refunds, the documents given to the Journal-Bulletin show sizable refunds.
The Journal-Bulletin could not obtain President Nixon’s complete income tax forms, which reportedly are kept sealed in a safe across the hall from the Internal Revenue Service commissioner’s office, so it is uncertain exactly how such large refunds were possible.
However, it is known that Mr. Nixon is paid on a monthly basis, which means his paycheck every four weeks should be $16,666.67. Federal income tax withholding on such a paycheck is normally $5,669.14 a month, if two exemptions are claimed.
Therefore, the President’s yearly withholding should total $68,029.68. This figure is less than the amount of money returned to the President in 1970, but information on income averaging and other sources of income -- stocks, bonds, real estate -- was not available.
The Nixons filed joint tax returns in 1970 and 1971 in the Internal Revenue Service’s mid-Atlantic region, which has headquarters in Philadelphia and includes Washington, D.C.
Tax information for the other years of the Nixon presidency are not in the records of the mid-Atlantic region, the sources said, concluding that the Nixons apparently filed tax returns in Washington only in 1970-71.
Tax returns for the other years, the sources speculated, were probably filed in New York, California or Florida.
In response to a question during a recent press conference last month, President Nixon said the Internal Revenue Service made a “full field review” of his tax returns and “did not order any changes.”
Newsweek magazine quoted tax official in its Sept. 17 edition as saying a President’s tax return is given a “polite once-over” and sealed in a safe.
The Baltimore Sun and the New York Times carried stories last month saying that the mortgage interest paid by Mr. Nixon on his home in San Clemente, Calif. and Key Biscayne, Fla., and a deduction for the gift of his vice presidential papers combined for a figure higher than his salary and returns from other assets. The papers concluded that the Nixons paid no taxes in 1970-71.
The White House has said that Mr. Nixon did take the deduction for the gift to the National Archives of the vice presidential papers.
The type of deduction claimed for the papers was abolished with passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1969. That deduction was eliminated as of July 25, 1969, but the White House has said that the President made the gift before thhen.
The vice presidential papers have been valued at $570,000. The deduction limit under the old law was 30 per cent of adjusted gross income in the year of the gift and 50 per cent in each of the following years.
Therefore, based only on the President’s salary, the Nixons presumably claimed a deduction of $60,000 for the gift of the papers in 1969, and $100,000 in subsequent years.
According to Internal Revenue Service records, 74,601,327 people filed income tax returns in 1971, the latest year for which statistics have been compiled. Of those who filed returns, 14,679,789 did not pay any tax because they did not earn enough money.
In Mr. Nixon’s tax bracket -- people with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 to $500,000 -- there were 15,208 filings.
In the $500,000 to one-million-dollar bracket there were 2,189 filings; and in the highest bracket, one million dollars or more, there were 864 filings.
A disclosure in 1969 that more than 150 persons paid no federal income tax, despite adjusted gross income of one million dollars or more a year, was one of the main pressures that led to the Tax Reform Act of 1969. and abolished such deductions as the one now claimed by the President for the gift of his vice presidential papers.
It could not be determined how many people made the 1971-73 “zero taxpayers list,” which is made up of people with adjusted gross annual incomes of $200,000 or more, but President Nixon barely missed being on it.
The Providence Journal and USA TODAY are part of Gannett.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: From the archives: Richard Nixon’s income tax bill $1,670 for 2 years