White House Won’t Say How It Knows What Warren Buffet, Secretary Pay in Taxes

January 25, 2012 - 8:29 PM

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President Barack Obama, left, and investor Warren Buffett. (AP Photo

(CNSNews.com) – The White House did not respond to multiple requests to disclose exactly how it knows what Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and his secretary , Debbie Bosanek, pay in taxes.

President Barack Obama referenced both Buffett and Bosanek during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, saying that it was unfair that Buffett paid a lower tax rate than Bosanek.

“Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary,” Obama said, using the example of Buffett and his secretary to make the case for enacting new taxes on those making $1 million per year or more.

However, Obama did not say how he knows what either Buffett or Bosanek pay in taxes. IRS records are protected by federal law, so Obama would not be able to simply look into their files to find the information.

CNSNews.com sent multiple e-mails to the White House press office asking how Obama knew what Buffett and Bosanek pay in taxes. CNSNews.com also asked whether Buffett and Bosanek had given their tax returns to the White House and if so, would the White House release the information.

The White House did not respond by press time.

CNSNews.com also inquired with Buffett’s office, asking if he would release his tax returns. This news agency left multiple messages with Buffett’s press secretary, Carrie Kizer, asking if the billionaire investor would release his tax returns so the public can see if they back up Obama’s claims.

Those messages too were unreturned as of press time.

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Debbie Bosanek, assistant to billionaire investor Warren Buffett, at the State of the Union, Jan. 24, 2012. (AP Photo)

Buffett has addressed the issue of releasing his tax returns before, stating in a letter to Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) that he would only do so if other very wealthy people released their returns  at the same time.

“If you could get other ultra rich Americans to publish their returns along with mine, that would be very useful to the tax dialogue and intelligent reform,” Buffett wrote in an October 2011 letter to Rep. Huelskamp. “I stand ready and willing –indeed eager – to participate in this exercise.”

Buffett said he would bet anyone any sum of money that the information he has released about his taxes – in an August 2011 New York Times op-ed – would match up precisely with the information on his actual tax return.

“If you [Huelskamp] can get any of the ultra rich to release their returns simultaneously with mine, I will be willing to have a pre-release wager with anyone who wishes for any sum that they wish that figures in my return will be exactly those used in my op-ed piece,” Buffet wrote in his letter to Huelskamp.

Buffett did state his gross income, taxable income, and income tax paid in 2010 in the letter, despite refusing to release his returns.

“To be specific, my adjusted gross income (line 37) was $62,855,038, my taxable income (line 43) was $39,814,784, and my federal income tax (line 60) was $6,923,494. In addition, my payroll taxes were $15,300.”

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama delivering his State of the Union Address to Congress on Jan. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Forbes magazine reported on Wednesday that Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, likely makes between $200,000 and $500,000 a year in salary. The magazine reported that by using IRS tax tables, one can estimate a person’s salary range based upon their tax rate.

Bosanek, according to President Obama, pays a higher tax rate than Buffett. “The IRS publishes detailed tax tables by income level," reported Forbes. “The latest results are for 2009. They show that taxpayers earning an adjusted gross income between $100,000 and $200,000 pay an average rate of twelve percent. This is below Buffet’s rate; so she must earn more than that. Taxpayers earning adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 to $500,000, pay an average tax rate of nineteen percent. Therefore Buffet must pay Debbie Bosanke a salary above two hundred thousand.”