Kirsch: Cheney Tax Return Shows Katrina Tax Benefits for Non-Katrina Charitable Contributions
Michael Kirsch (Notre Dame) points out an interesting aspect of the Vice-President's 2005 tax return:
It appears that the VP is a major beneficiary of the Hurricane Katrina tax relief act. In particular, he claimed $6.8 million of charitable deductions, which is 77% of his AGI -- well in excess of the 50% limitation that would have applied absent the Katrina legislation. The press release indicates that the charitable contribution reflects the amount of net proceeds from an independent administrator's exercise of the VP's Halliburton options -- apparently, the VP had agreed back in 2001 that he would donate the net proceeds from the options to charities once they were exercised.
The press release seems to confirm, at least implicitly, the VP's efforts to take advantage of the Katrina legislation -- it mentions that the Cheneys wrote a personal check of $2.3 million to the administrator in December in order to "maximize the charitable gifts in 2005." Admittedly, I don't know anything about the transactions beyond the info in the press release, but my gut reaction is that the personal check was given in order to make sure the independent administrator had sufficient liquid assets to pay all of the promised charitable contributions before the 50% limit returned on 1/1/06.
Despite the importance of the Katrina legislation to his tax return, it looks like none of the charitable contributions actually went to Katrina-related charities (the press release lists the 3 charitable recipients, all of which were designated in the original 2001 gift agreement). While there's nothing inappropriate about that from a legal perspective, it does demonstrate how the legislation, which was sold to the public as providing relief to Katrina victims, provided significant tax benefits to the VP (and potentially other wealthy individuals) in situations that have nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina.
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