What’s in the candidates’ tax returns?

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Former Vice President Joe Biden told a group of wealthy fundraisers in June that he didn’t want to “demonize” wealth. Less than a month later, he released tax returns that showed he had plenty of it. Biden and his wife, Jill, made a total of $15.6 million in 2017 and 2018.

The Bidens earned less than $400,000 a year during the eight years of the Obama administration, and even less when Biden was a senator. (His salary as vice president was $230,700. Jill Biden, an English professor, made an average of $83,000 a year.) Their new wealth came from book sales and speaking fees, giving Biden the highest income of the 14 candidates who have released their tax returns.

Biden reminds voters on the campaign trail that he was often the poorest senator. He’s called himself “Middle Class Joe” and is known for his frequent Amtrak commutes from Washington to Wilmington, Del. Biden’s six-figure salaries as a senator and vice president placed him above the median household income, but he was never seen as rich. Now he’s in the top 1 percent of households.

Biden’s 2017 memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” was an instant bestseller. In 2017 and 2018, he earned about $13.3 million in book royalties. A financial disclosure form released by the Biden campaign shows that he also made $4.2 million for 49 speaking appearances between November 2017 and May 2019. Jill Biden received $700,000 in speaking fees for 18 events in 2018.

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