Jimmy Carter Had Zero Federal Tax Liability In 1977

Tax reporter Joseph Thorndike just threw cold water on the bombshell New York Times Trump tax story by pointing out that Jimmy Carter had zero tax liability, due to write-offs like Trump, in 1977.

Thorndike wrote on Twitter: “Trump isn’t the first president to pay no taxes. In 1977, Jimmy Carter filed a tax return that also showed a zero tax liability. But Carter chose to make a voluntary contribution to the Treasury.”

“Carter said his zero liability was a problem “not because there was anything improper about it but I think that I, as president, ought to demonstrate that the present tax laws are not adequate and that someone who earns as much as I did in ’76 ought to pay taxes.”

Carter did eventually volunteered to pay 15% of his income that year to the treasury to get ahead of any negative news stories.

From Forbes: In 1977 Jimmy Carter paid exactly nothing to the federal treasury…

But tax day 1977 came and went without any release from the Carter White House. The president filed for an extension, but by early June, there was still no sign of a tax return. On June 13 Carter told reporters that he and his wife, Rosalynn, were filing the return that day, but the White House disclosed no forms.

On June 16 press secretary Jody Powell explained the delay — sort of. The president had decided to take a few more days to review elements of the return, Powell said vaguely. In his Oval Office diary for that date, however, Carter offered a fuller explanation: “We’ve a problem because of my income tax return where we owe no tax for 1976.”

Return Released

On June 24 Carter finally released his 1976 tax return. Reporters were quick to spot the central issue and the president’s discomfort. “President Carter and his wife Rosalynn owed no federal income tax last year, but will give the government $6,000 because of Carter’s ‘strong feeling’ that people in his income bracket should pay some tax,” reported The Washington Post.

‘We’ve a problem because of my income tax return where we owe no tax for 1976,’ Carter wrote.

The president was clearly uneasy with his tax situation, hence the voluntary payment. “It seemed apparent that the President wished to avoid the political embarrassment that might result if he paid no Federal income tax, even though that would be wholly legal,” observed The New York Times .

Carter’s return showed an adjusted gross income of $54,934, down from $136,926 in 1975. After deductions, he was left with a tax obligation of $11,675.

But that obligation was wiped out by a $20,864 investment tax credit stemming from equipment and building purchases for his peanut processing business in Georgia (which he owned jointly with his brother, Billy Carter, and mother, Lillian Carter). Carter had taken a similar deduction in 1975.