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Cory Booker's Tax Returns Show He Got Stung by SALT Deduction Cap

Joe Light
Cory Booker's Tax Returns Show He Got Stung by SALT Deduction Cap

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker released 10 years of tax returns on Wednesday, and like many of his neighbors, the New Jersey senator got stung by a new cap on deductions of state and local taxes.

Booker, one of 19 Democrats running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination, reported that he earned $152,715 in total income in 2018, but gave $24,000 to charity, which puts him in the top tier of candidates for philanthropy.

Unlike some of his Democratic competitors, Booker actually got a tax refund, receiving $6,665. Like many New Jersey residents, he did get caught by the new cap on SALT deductions. He paid more than $36,000 in state and local income and real-estate taxes but was only able to deduct $10,000 of that.

He owed $22,781 in taxes on $118,715 in taxable income last year, paying an effective rate of 19.2 percent. Unlike many taxpayers wrestling with the new law, Booker over-withheld, resulting in the refund. Booker, who is is single, reported his Senate salary as well as a small amount of interest.

He reported $275,250 on his 2017 return in royalties, presumably on his book “United” published that year. The royalties plus his Senate salary brought Booker’s total 2017 income to $429,983.

Booker, who has served as mayor of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, has said that clean water, other environmental issues, jobs and improving schools are “urgent” issues that will be central to his campaign.

He has promoted expanding the earned income tax credit, which directs payments toward low-income workers. He also backed the Opportunity Zone program, included in the 2017 tax overhaul, which gives tax breaks to investors who build real estate or fund businesses in distressed communities.

Booker, 49, has fallen behind many of his Democratic competitors in fundraising and early polling heading into the 2020 primary season. One of the most popular politicians in his home state, he has yet to capture the same level of intensity as other contenders at the top of the pack of declared candidates.

Since Booker started his campaign in February, he’s offered an upbeat message that contrasts with sharp attacks on President Donald Trump by some other Democratic hopefuls as well as top leaders in the energized progressive wing of the party.