NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 22, 2008

It has become a common practice, when a presidential candidate releases his or her tax returns, for reporters and pundits to examine how much the candidate gave to charity.  Last Friday, Sen. Joseph Biden, the Democratic candidate for vice president, released his tax returns for the years 1998 to 2007.

The returns revealed:

  • In one year, 1999, Biden and his wife Jill gave $120 to charity out of an adjusted gross income of $210,979.
  • In 2005, out of an adjusted gross income of $321,379, the Bidens gave $380.
  • In nine out of the ten years for which tax returns were released, the Bidens gave less than $400 to charity; in the tenth year, 2007, when Biden was running for president, they gave $995 out of an adjusted gross income of $319,853.

Looking at the ten-year total of Biden's giving:

  • One percent would have been $24,500.
  • One half of one percent would have been $12,250.
  • One quarter of one percent would have been $6,125.
  • And one eighth of one percent would have been $3,062 -- just below what Biden actually contributed.

"The average American household gives about two percent of adjusted gross income," says Arthur Brooks, the Syracuse University scholar, soon to take over as head of the American Enterprise Institute, who has done extensive research on American giving.  "On average, (Biden) is not giving more than one tenth as much as the average American household, and that is evidence that he doesn't share charitable values with the average American."

Source: Byron York, "Joe Biden and American Charity; What his tax returns mean," National Review, September 15, 2008.


Browse more articles on Government Issues