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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Governor Palin, your tax return, please

According to Mapquest, the distance from Juneau, the capital of Alaska, to the town of Wasilla is 817 miles. It is a 20-hour drive that crosses the Canadian border and then comes back into Alaska. Most people who need to make this trek don't drive it if they don't have to. They fly from Juneau to Anchorage; Wasilla is about 50 miles and an hour's drive from the Anchorage airport.

When Sarah Palin became the state's governor, she became entitled to live in the governor's mansion in Juneau. Palin has apparently never really moved to Juneau, however. She and her family still spend most of their time in Wasilla. For example, all of the colorful recent events involving Palin babies happened in Wasilla or thereabouts. But the various Palins often fly to Juneau so that the governor can go to work there; other times, she works out of a state building in Anchorage and stays in her Wasilla residence, which is not state property.

The trips back and forth between the two locales certainly appear to be the Palins' personal choice. They could live entirely in Juneau, but apparently they prefer the life they have in Wasilla, and so they engage in long-distance commuting. All well and good. It's a free country.

What gets interesting is the fact that the State of Alaska pays the Palins "per diem" allowances for time they spend in Wasilla, according to reports published yesterday. The Washington Post wrote:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official "duty station" is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor's daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Whether these charges were legitimate under Alaska rules and regulations, I haven't a clue. Certainly there are questions about their propriety. (Perhaps we could track down Emilie Boyles and see what she thinks.) But I do know something about the federal income tax consequences of fringe benefits, and it certainly appears to me based on the published reports that some, if not most, of these "per diems" should have been included as income on the Palins' federal income tax return. If they weren't, something's wrong.

"Per diem" allowances received by an employee can legally be omitted from her gross income if they constitute reimbursements for amounts that the employee could have deducted as business expenses had the employee paid for them out-of-pocket and not been reimbursed. Thus, for Palin, the tax question would appear to boil down to whether, had she not been reimbursed for the $60,441 of travel, meals, and lodging expenses, she could have legitimately taken business deductions for them.

It does not appear that such deductions would have been allowable for any amounts attributable to travel by her husband and children. Section 274(m)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code strictly forbids deductions for bringing spouses and dependents along on business travel unless the spouses and dependents (a) are employees of the taxpayer (here, the taxpayer is the governor), (b) are travelling for a bona fide business purpose, and (c) would otherwise be entitled to deduct the travel on their own tax returns. Unless Palin's spouse and kids are also her employees and she can show that they were away on their own businesses, their expenses would not be deductible by the governor. And therefore she cannot exclude from income any per diems attributable to any of them. (By the way, since she's the employee, the income would be required to be reported on her own return, not her kids'.)

As for her own travel, Palin could also run into tax problems. Only travel "away from home" qualifies for tax exclusion (or deduction), and for this purpose, one's "home" is generally the principal place of one's business. In this case, the governor reportedly works out of offices in both Anchorage and Juneau, but since she has only one state job, she can declare only one of those as her tax "home." If Juneau is her tax "home" (which would seem to be the case, since that's the capital), she cannot exclude or deduct meals and lodging expenses incurred in Juneau, and if Anchorage is her tax "home," she cannot exclude or deduct such expenses incurred in Anchorage or Wasilla. If she got per diem reimbursements for stays in both places, stays in only one place would appear to be excludible or deductible. And perhaps more importantly, the cost of regular commuting between one's residence and one's tax "home" is not deductible at all, no matter how long the distance between them; it is certainly possible that Palin's treks between the two locales are simply long-distance commuting for tax purposes.

I am sure our right-wing brethren will cite the questions being raised here as another "smear" on Palin. But you know what? Reporting all your income on your tax return is totally, totally relevant to one's fitness for office. I said so about Charlie Rangel just last week, and I'll say it again here with reference to Governor Palin.

And so it's time for her to produce the tax return and show us whether she did the right thing.

UPDATE, 10/5, 11:56 a.m.: The Palins' returns have been released, and they did not report any of the travel reimbursements as income. We have revised our legal analysis in an update post here, but we still conclude that a large part, if not all, of the travel money should have been included on the return.

Comments (76)

I find the idea of collecting per diem when you're living in your own house completely odious. I don't care if it's legal or illegal; it's grossly irresponsible.

Everyone who has ever worked in government knows what per diem is for. Everyone who's ever worked ANYWHERE knows what it's for. It's designed to pay expenses for food and lodging while you are traveling on business. If her "duty station" is Juneau, then why would they pay per diem for her to go to Wasilla? She's not going to Wasilla on business; she's going to Wasilla because she feels like it. If her "duty station" were Wasilla, then perhaps you could classify her trips to Juneau as business trips the state should pay for, but then she wouldn't be entitled to per diem when she's in the Wasilla house.

You can't have BOTH (1) the idea that you live in Wasilla and work in Juneau, for the purposes of making the state pay to fly you to Juneau when there's business there; and (2) the idea that you live in Juneau and work in Wasilla, for the purposes of making the state pay you per diem. She's double-dipping, more than obviously.

Could it be that God and the IRS don't see eye-to-eye


You guys are really scared, huh?

File a complaint with the IRS, Jack - I'm sure you know how.

I'm sure your motives are pure and your concerns are valid and I can't wait for a similar analysis of McCain's, Obama's and Biden's expenses - just for the sake of the appearance of evenhandedness. Although your condemnation of Rangel's scams may immunize you from charges of "smearing" Palin, you can't be too careful.

You know those pesky righties.

The IRS needs to audit her!!!

Oh, I see... "Per Diem Gate" is the scandal that is going to bring her down.

Give me a break... She has saved the taxpayers of Alaska hundreds of dollars, and if she wants to live in her hometown and charges per-diem to the state, big freakin' deal. It's still a net-gain for the citizens of Alaska.

I would agree with you on one point... Per Diem payments encourage corruption (or the appearance of corruption). You should look no further than our own legislature to see how corrupting the system of "per diem" is. Their paltry salaries don't look quite as small when you figure in their daily per-diem.

And we wonder why they love "special sessions" so much or want to meet annually. It's all about the bucks!

CORRECTION: "Hundreds of dollars annually" from property tax cuts.

"If she wants to live in her hometown and charges per-diem to the state, big freakin' deal."

Ha! Yeah. "So she's an utter fraud, so what?" I guess that's about what I'd expect as a defense of her, since it's about all that's left.

Proving you can put lipstick on a porker and it's still a porker.

Kwame Kilpatrick, Charlie Rangle and
Rep William Jefferson. Those are the guy's the IRS needs to check out.

The FIRST thing McCain's team - or anyone's for that matter - would have vetted would be her tax returns and expenditures. This is yet another non-starter. Plays right into McCain/Palin's plans though....

The FIRST thing McCain's team - or anyone's for that matter - would have
vetted would be her tax returns and expenditures.

Yes, but as everyone knows, she wasn't properly vetted.

butch says: "The FIRST thing McCain's team - or anyone's for that matter - would have vetted would be her tax returns and expenditures."

They "would have" vetted her tax returns and expenditures if ... what? If they were competent? If they had thought about it? If they had vetted her at all? Butch implies they would have done it, therefore they must have done it. But does he have any evidence that they did it, other than the logical fallacy contained in his comment?


In all fairness, neither of us knows the full extent of vetting Palin went through. Here is a blurb from an article about the vetting process from the Washington Post:

"Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager and the person at the point of the vice presidential process, said there was no abrupt change of course in the final hours. Nor, he said, was Palin selected without having gone through the full vetting process that was done for other finalists. That process included reviews of financial and other personal data, an FBI background check and considerable discussion among the handful of McCain advisers involved in the deliberations."

The article goes on to state that the process began last Spring.

neither of us knows the full extent of vetting Palin went through

You're the one who started talking about vetting.

I certainly hope we're going to begin using Jack's standard for all politician's per diems. I can just imagine the howls of outrage and fear from Salem should such a standard be applied to Legislators per diems and expenses.

"Everybody does it" -- so much for Palin's supposedly sterling track record on ethics.

Carpe per diem. It's God's will.

Yes, but as everyone knows, she wasn't properly vetted.

You mean to say "...as everyone who wishes she weren't on the ticket knows, she wasn't properly vetted."

How would you define "proper" vetting? Is it the sort of Salem witch trial vetting in which you, Obama's minions and the MSM are engaged? I think, in your results-based definition, vetting would only be deemed "proper" had it prevented her nomination.

I submit that the vettor is the arbiter of "proper" in this case. Of course the voters will be the final arbiters - that's the scary part, isn't it?

This post is not about vetting. If cc and Butch would like to discuss that irrelevant question, please do so in another forum.

Let's talk about the per diems and the taxes here.

Well, as an employee of the State of Alaska, who lives and works in Juneau, who collects per diem for state/work related travel, who is on a state computer typing this: SHHHHHH! The last thing any of us need is a look into this per diem thing - though I'm sure everyone who has ever used it, does so with the best intentions. I know I sure have and will.

It's so interesting to watch the world react to Palin. She's a decent governor. I have no idea how she'd be as a VP. She waves when you circle around the block just so your half drunk girlfriend can wave at her. I'm sure Juneau is glad L&C Law alumni are here and working hard.

(PS - this is lunch hour and non-partisan).

"Give me a break... She has saved the taxpayers of Alaska hundreds of (thousands of) dollars, and if she wants to live in her hometown and charges per-diem to the state, big freakin' deal. It's still a net-gain for the citizens of Alaska."

As I was reading the original post, I knew that someone would come along and make a comment along these lines.

It is completely disingenuous to say on the one hand that you are a reformer who is hell bent to save the taxpayers money by turning down lavish perks such as a personal chef and a private jet, and then bilking them with the other hand by charging them for living in your own home!

Sarah Palin made a choice to run for Governor of Alaska and she knew full well that the capitol was in Juneau. She made a PERSONAL choice to spend more than half of her time away from the seat of government by staying at her home in Wasilla. She should have to pay for her personal decisions, not the taxpayers. The behavior is consistent with her current misleading and repeated statements about the bridge to nowhere and selling the jet on Ebay.

Just as "Everybody does it" is an common ethical fallacy, so is "I had it coming to me."

"Everybody does it" -- so much for Palin's supposedly sterling track record on ethics.

Did Palin say that? Otherwise how do the words of others impact her ethics?

Assuming, of course that the "quote" refers to per diems.

Both ethical fallacies were offered as defenses of Palin by this commenter.

As a former Federal employee who worked for 25 yrs in Anchorage, you need to be aware of key facts. The legislature meets in Juneau, for 90 days or less. outside the legis session, half of the legislators are in Anchorage and the MatSu valley, where they live. Most of the key outside parties who the governor deals with, such as the oil/gas companies, law firms, etc., are in Anchorage. So, for the 9 months when the legis is out of session, it makes great sense for the governor to be at the gov's office in Anchorage. Surely it would be insane for Palin to fly back and forth regularly, and charge the state for hotels and meals. Since her work station is Juneau, she is on travel swtatus when working in Anchorage. She is thus entitled to lodging and meal expenses. she is not claiming lodging, only meals.
Similarly, when I was on a 6-month temporary duty in Cincinnati, sent from Anchorage, I stayed at my mom's house much of the time. for those nights, I claimed only meal expenses, "lodging at no cost to the govt."

John Fairplay says:

I certainly hope we're going to begin using Jack's standard for all politician's per diems. I can just imagine the howls of outrage and fear from Salem should such a standard be applied to Legislators per diems and expenses.
If any member of the Oregon Legislature--of either party--is improperly using per diems, please let us know. But even if the practice was widespread in Salem, it wouldn't excuse any abuse of per diems by Gov. Palin.

If your strongest response to an accusation is "they do it too", then you are on really shaky ground.

Tim Tricky says:

She has saved the taxpayers of Alaska hundreds of dollars, and if she wants to live in her hometown and charges per-diem to the state, big freakin' deal. It's still a net-gain for the citizens of Alaska.
By this reasoning, if I find someone's wallet and return it, I'm entitled to walk into their house and take a few inexpensive items. Nope, I don't think so. If you are inappropriately taking money from the government, you aren't excused just because you find other ways to save the government money.

I used to work in a state legislature, and I guarantee you that everyone knows that per diem is not intended, as a general rule, to pay you to be at home. I can imagine situations where you're living in the capital but work takes you briefly back to the town where you happen to have a house, and you could wind up getting per diem to stay for a day or two because it's business travel. But generally, it's to cover the costs of business travel.

Seriously, this is like George Bush refusing to live in Washington where the work is and deciding to live in Texas instead, and then requiring that we pay him a daily stipend -- extra money on a per-day basis! -- based on his decision to remain at his house instead of in the capital city working.

I don't understand it a bit. The job of governor is located in Juneau. If you want that job, it's in Juneau. If you want to maintain your other home, that's perfectly fine, but why you'd expect to be paid extra because you don't move to where the work is...I keep trying to figure out how anyone would justify it, and I can't.

Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving.


"Since her work station is Juneau, she is on travel swtatus when working in Anchorage."

If everything you say is true, then this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of, and her "duty station" should obviously be in Anchorage. You can't put somebody on "travel status" for the vast majority of the year; that's absolutely insane. (Not you're idiotic; that idea, if indeed it is part of the understanding there, is idiotic.)

This Per Diem discussion is completely relevant, mostly because it's one piece of a bigger picture about her. It's a picture about her actual record that has been buried under a mountain of calculated spin... to benefit of McCain and the detriment of actually focusing on policy differences. Remember, his campaign admitted this election wasn't going to be about the issues. They couldn't, they'd lose.

They've branded her a "Maverick" and a "Reformer" already, and they'll go after any journalist that dares to point our her bald-faced lies about her record. They'll cry "Liberal Bias!!" until the media monopolies are cowed even further into a publicist role for Palin.

The spin-induced notion that mass-media has somehow treated Obama with kid gloves is ridiculous. Magically, there's a paradox in this country... Republican policies are terribly unpopular, and yet, McCain/Palin are up in the polls. Oh, and also, a significant percentage still think Obama is a secret islamic jihaddist. I want to know how many conservatives here can explain these things away. Please, convince me Americans are getting the information we're entitled to as citizens of the finest country in the world...

You should've analyzed representative Rangel's return for him as well. Apparently a lot of politicians misunderstand the tax code, even those who help oversee it. :)

That should be the McCain/Palin campaign slogan: "Everybody does it."

I think the interesting insight is not her loose per diem approach, or the tax consequences. Rather it is the fact that she was 800 miles away from the state Capital, at home, for over half of her first 19 months in office. Might tell us something about her work ethic that puts her in the same league with our current president and his Texas ranch.
And now she's headed back to Wasilla so her first real national media interview can be staged in her home, away from those pesky centers of elitism.

Maybe she'll stay in Wasilla when she's vice president.

Funny how "rule of law" Republicans turn into such "well, heyyyy, it's really not THAT bad" types when one of their own goes under the microscope.

Maybe she'll stay in Wasilla *when* she's vice president.

looks like you are starting to come to grips with the fact that the democrats have screwed up again and will lose yet another national election they should have won in a landslide. as an independent, i'd feel sorry for that party if they were worthy of any pity.

go ahead, Dems - keep spending a lot of rancor and venom attacking the veep nominee, just like the GOP wants you to. do you really think, even if Palin was unethical (in the non-legal sense of the word) in collecting this per diem, that it's smart politics to bring it up and harp on it? they should just ignore her like the GOP is ignoring that guy who is second on the Democratic ticket -- what's his name again?

Can she really declare Juneau her "tax home" if she has spent 312 nights in a 19 month period in her own home, apparently commuting to an Anchorage office? 19 months times 22 workdays per month (surely she didn't claim per diem for weekends?) is 418 workdays, and she claimed 312 days of home time per diem - that's almost 75% of her time!

By the way, regarding a couple of earlier comments:

1. Someone said that surely the McCain campaign checked Palin's tax returns. Well, they say they did, but the campaign staff is not the IRS, and anyway they couldn't tell from the returns whether she reported the per diem or not. Unreported income is just that: unreported. The "vetters" wouldn't have a clue as to whether all income was properly reported. You'd have to compare her W-2 from the state to her salary, and both to the 1040.

2. Someone else commented that Palin billed "only for meals." Not true: her expense reports originally said "lodging - own home." Lodging is not meals.

Before everyone gets their panties in a bunch, let's not forget that there are three other candidates who allegedly work for as U.S. Senators who are essentially getting paid to campaign for another job. I am sure the political parties cover most or all of the travel and lodging for the candidates, but do you really think they don't abuse their ability to campaign by using their official letterhead, making an "official appearance" as a member of Congress (and taking their families with them for the photo-op), etc.? It's been posted before ... those in glass houses ...

This whole discussion, re both the Palins and Charles Rangel is an example of the "gotcha" culture that now pervades American politics both left and right.

First, there is no reason to believe that the Palins did not file correct tax returns until the tax returns and the underlying facts and documents have been inspected by someone who is competent and impartial.

This would not be simple. Where someone's tax home is, is not a simple question in cases like this one where the taxpayer is spending a significant amount of time, and doing a significant amount of work, in two separate cities. The Post article implies that Alaska rules on reimbursements put the Governor's post of duty in Juneau. I suppose an aggressive IRS auditor could attempt to prove that her tax home was really the Anchorage metro area, in despite of the regs, since she spent more than 50% of her time there, but it sounds like an uphill battle. I would bet that the IRS offices in Alaska are familiar with the problem.

I am a licensed tax preparer and I would not expect a non-professional to understand the tax home rules or the rules covering employee business expenses. The Palins' job (and Congressman Rangel's) was to hire a competent, experienced professional, preferably someone familiar with their kind of situation, and follow that person's advice. If that advice was obviously wrong then I would blame them for not getting competent professional assistance, but not for "cheating" on their taxes.

Cheating is when you knowingly conceal income, with or without the collusion of your accountant, or take deductions that you know you are not entitled to. Cheating implies motive, and there is no evidence of motive here that I can see (and the same applies to Rangel). It is not cheating to take reimbursements that you are entitled to, and follow what you believe is competent professional advice to report them in all or part on your taxes.

Finally, a more general comment from the public policy angle. It is in the interest of the State of Alaska to attract people to work in Juneau from all over the state either as elected officials or civil servants. Juneau is far, far away from the population centers of the state. If the combination of state salary and reimbursement policies and tax law punishes people financially in a serious way for such a choice, they will be a lot less likely to do it. Being generous with reimbursements is one way for Alaska to counteract that, and apparently that is what they are doing.

1. Palin needs to take criticism on her record: if she can't take the heat....
Criticisms about her truthfulness on her position on earmarks, how the state plane was sold or her initial support for the bridge to nowhere are valid because they go to the heart of whether she is a truthful anti-pork barel reformer or just another pork-barreling says what it takes to win pol.

2. Why is the capital in Juneau? Why in fact do many states make their capitals in the middle of nowhere far from their states pop centers? Does the location have to be cast in stone?

3. In the age of telecommunications in a state with a part-time legislature and pop center closer to her home than Juneau it prob makes sense for her to be in Wasilla a lot of the time.

(You would think a person burned once would be a little more careful)

"10 days of digging through her and her kids’ trash, here are the media’s big scoops: (a) she supported the bridge to nowhere before killing it, unlike the two tools on the other ticket who supported it consistently; (b) she sought earmarks as mayor of Wasilla, the grand total of which was a fraction of what the “Change” duo has requested in its combined 40 years in Washington; and (c) she billed Alaska for per diem expenses to which she was perfectly entitled, including travel expenses that were roughly 75% less than the previous governor racked up, and actually declined to be reimbursed for some expenses she could have claimed. If you’re wondering why the left is so heavily invested in smears, it’s because the actual “dirt” on her is an inch thin. Better to photoshop her into a picture of a woman with a rifle in a bikini and send that around than take your chances with trying to explain why the state can’t afford to cover occasional airfare for the small children of a governor who doesn’t have a team of nannies to watch them while she’s on business trips.

(they’re covered if they’re part of the event to which the governor’s traveling.)"


Right on cue. The issue discussed in this post is whether she properly reported the per diem allowances on her tax return. If you can find some other blog where they discussed the propriety of requesting those per diems, or the other issues you discuss, you should comment about them there.

the “Change” duo

You should have stayed up for the end of the Republican convention. We now have duelling "Change" duos.

Thank you Jack!!!!

I absolutely agree...lets see the returns.

I am hoping the 20% accuracy-related penalty here!

I would agree that this was largely beside the point if it weren't for the nauseating, entirely false claims being made that she's some kind of money-saving reformer. Money-saving reformers exactly, precisely do not do this very thing. They exactly, precisely do not game rules to pad their own pockets.

Yes, perhaps there's ALSO a valid point to be made about all four candidates being paid to campaign. But right now, on this topic, I continue to find it absolutely shocking that the same candidate who tries to portray herself as a plain-spoken, straight-talking thrift fiend actually turns out to be an earmark-chasing, public-funds-grabbing hypocrite.

And that is always, always, always going to be relevant to me, particularly since she has literally NOTHING to run on other than this image, which now turns out to be false. I don't hate her personally; I don't even think she's necessarily that much worse than lots of other public officials, unfortunately. But she's clearly no better, either. There's a decent chance this person is going to wind up as president if McCain is elected, and it's clear that you cannot believe a word that comes out of her mouth, and that discovery simply cannot be dismissed as "gotcha politics" or anything of the sort.

Day 14 and the frontier, ice breaking pioneer woman is still on da ticket. Hop'n she takes a bite out of Biden next month in them debates.

Most of the posts are comical or almost. Some are misinformed.

Many of you haven't apparently been to Alaska or understand its geography. Juneau is 600 miles from Anchorage as the crow flies, 650 miles from Fairbanks, 1300 miles from Barrow, 1100 miles from Nome, 2000 miles from Shemyo Air Force Base in the Aleutians,1250 miles from Dutch Harbor. Since there is no road from Juneau to Anchorage, but maybe a good ATV might make it, it would be over a 1000 mile trip in good weather (15 days in the year)connecting up to existing roads.

Kevin and John Cunningham make good points. The legislature seldom meets the 90 days. When I was there last year there were only three staff members there plus one legislator who's district includes Juneau. Quiet as a church Unitarian). And as the one legislator said "the other legislators are all at home".

I'd make a big case out of it, but you might want to know a few things first. At least her tax statements, then an explanation, and what State of Alaska allows, and what other legislators do.

As far as the tax law is concerned (which is what this post is about), "what State of Alaska allows, and what other legislators do" is not relevant. Also note, she is not a legislator.

"You don't know Alaska -- Alaska is different" is not a known exception to the income tax. It does show, however, that Governor Palin's experience in Alaska may have little worth when it comes to running the federal government.

Jack, you know tax law. Isn't there tax case law, or case law that would find Palin innocent if the diem case is not in her favor per Fed tax, but Alaska allowed the diem program and to other legislators, government employees, the way she may have employed the diem? Would State of Alaska be held liable? Wouldn't her innocence be more likely, especially applying some of Whitey51 logic?

Ignorance of the tax law is a defense to a criminal prosecution, but the taxpayer would still owe the tax, interest, and possible penalties.

How the employer characterizes reimbursement of nondeductible personal expenses is irrelevant.

There are some special rules for members of the U.S. Congress and for state legislators, but not for governors.

And it is not as though this is a new issue. As reported in the Post:

In the past, per diem claims by Alaska state officials have carried political risks. In 1988, the head of the state Commerce Department was pilloried for collecting a per diem charge of $50 while staying in his Anchorage home, according to local news accounts. The commissioner, the late Tony Smith, resigned amid a series of controversies.

"It was quite the little scandal," said Tony Knowles, the Democratic governor from 1994 to 2000. "I gave a direction to all my commissioners if they were ever in their house, whether it was Juneau or elsewhere, they were not to get a per diem because, clearly, it is and it looks like a scam -- you pay yourself to live at home," he said.

Knowles, whose children were school-age at the start of his first term, said that his wife sometimes accompanied him to conferences overseas but that he could "count on one hand" the number of times his children accompanied him.

"And the policy was not to reimburse for family travel on commercial airlines, because there is no direct public benefit to schlepping kids around the state," he said. The rules were articulated by Mike Nizich, then director of administrative services in the governor's office, said Knowles and an aide to another former governor, Walter Hickel.

Nizich is now Palin's chief of staff. He did not return a phone call seeking comment. The rules governing family travel on state-owned aircraft appear less clear. Knowles said he operated under the understanding that immediate family could accompany the governor without charge.

But during the Murkowski years, that practice was questioned, and the state attorney general's office produced an opinion saying laws then in effect required reimbursement for spousal travel.

'... Juneau is far from the population centers of Alaska ..." Ha. The whole damn state of Alaska is far from any population centers.

For what it's worth, and someone suggested to me that it matters:

When a travel allowance is provided the employee as a fringe benefit, then the employer must show the amount on the W-2's.

Are elected officials' salaries a matter of public record?

the employer must show the amount on the W-2's

That may be the legal requirement, but it is not always correctly followed. And the employer's treatment of reimbursed nondeductible personal expenses is not relevant to the proper tax treatment of the employee. (It could mitigate penalties, but on the question of the income tax and interest, it doesn't matter.)

In this case, there would be FICA tax as well as regular income tax and interest at stake.

Well, I'm unsure which is the strongest actionable tax-filing failure, or lie, but sure there are several. It can all be sorted out when the documents are exhibited.

Failin's behavior story is a minefield of criminality and disqualifications from office. Those mines can not stay and are not allowed to stay buried, out of voters' sight. The public condemnation of her should shift, away from listing specific crimes and lies which can be indicted against her, and focus instead on the summary character fault which is totally unacceptable that she keeps hiding item after item after item, and brings forth no evidence for any of it, in instance after instance. Her illicit and non-complying tax returns, as only one example.

Her unAmerican unacceptable intolerable character, in a word: LIAR !

What's she hiding? --} She is disqualified from holding public office.

A couple of random comments:

(1) The federal agency for which I work reviews travel-expense reports with a fine-toothed comb. I'm guessing the Alaskan bureaucrats do similarly. Given that likelihood....
(2) Yeah, there's perhaps some way to interpret the wording of the statutes to say that it's just fine for Sarah Palin to be collecting that per diem while working at home, but I'm skeptical. I know that with my agency, at least, one can collect per diem only if one travels a certain minimum distance from one's home. (50 miles is the figure, I think.)

This is far more than a polital matter!

If Palin's tax treatment of her travel and expense reimbursements is not immediately resolved with her tax returns, the reqular taxpayer will be under the impression that if she is entitled to do this than so are we......eroding taxpayer compliance and the IRS's ability to enforce the tax code under their mandate to reduce the tax gap.

This is hilarious..Ms Palin charges the state 20% of what the person she succeeded charged. Her charges are made pursuant to Alaska Law and the Obama minions go haywire. Face it folks, what you see is what you get with Palin and the great majority of Americans like what they see. Let's see how many more fake stories you can make up.

ron wade wrote:
This is hilarious..Ms Palin charges the state 20% of what the person she succeeded charged.
2006: Murkowski's wife's airfare expenses:

2007: Palin's dude/daughters airfare expenses:

Palin -
-- Didn't fire the "chef"
-- Personally *chose* to keep residence elsewhere and commute

...why is anyone seriously defending this?

From my perspective, what matters is not what we "want" to know, but what we expect from anyone vying (or chosen) for the highest/second highest office in the country - if not the world.

This is not a time for work-arounds.

Releases of:
tax records
email records
cooperation with investigations
health records

are all valid and should be expected, at the ver y least. This is not an interview for manager of Home Depot or Olive Garden. This is serious business and it's unacceptable for us, as voters to allow anyone to blow off his/her accountability. Period.

The *least* sexist perspective would be to expect the same from all Pres/VP candidates. Gender is not an excuse to duck out of cherry-picked disclosure. That's absolute nonsense.

Ron and the rest of the scoreboard watchers-

Made up stories? The media hasn't even approached the level of scrutiny and wariness they afforded Obama... petty disdain for this accomplished, but 'uppity' black candidate. (Not my words, theirs) Or the outright opining in the media about "that bitch" Hillary, back when she still had a campaign? And Palin is portraying herself as a victim of sexism? HA!

All of this phony outrage is calculated spin to divert the focus away from looking at her record at all. But why the hell shouldn't we?? No one knows a damn thing about Palin... she and McCain have done nothing but smokescreen any question or inquiry into her record or life. They're coaching her and shaping the message before a real sit-down interview is allowed. MAVERICK(tm)! But how is McCain going to explain foreign policy to her if he thinks Iraq shares a border with Afghanistan?

Once people hear about the ignorance and radicalism coming from her church, or her family's involvement with the Alaska secessionist party, this little tabloid fascination phase with Palin will seem embarrassing.

But it's not a surprise to hear Republicans cry foul when the media actually starts to do their job, or anything approaching equal scrutiny is applied... and some commenters here echo that whiny, empty crap. You're gullible and don't even know it's obvious you put party and greed before country. People like Ron Wade look at this race in terms of marketability, not actual policy, where most Americans agree with Democratic positions. It's more sad than funny that you see the election like you see American Idol...

Gov. Failin comes out as a LIAR from her igloo closet, and decent people say she is a LIAR.

That is NOT the case of anyone "going haywire" or 'shaking scared.' (Only, the words are parrot-talk of the broadcasts of rightwing LIARS programming.)

Calling a LIAR a LIAR is her getting the deserved revulsion of decent people.


Palin and her family are very decent people. It is you who are short in that department. But since you have joined the left anger machine I applaud you for helping the McCain/Palin campaign/

First, congrats on the link/quote on TaxProf.

Alaska's tax policy is irrelevant to the federal tax returns: Alaska can determine how Alaska taxes its residents, but, last I checked, Congress/IRS makes the rules (laws, regs, guidance, et al.) for your federal return.

The Issue: Did Palin comply with the IRS's regulations on per diems? The comments above have one side arguing "no" while the other argues "irrelevant." No one is arguing that Palin actually complied with the regulations, are they?

I am so happy people are taking action. The Alaskan people are grateful, and want to keep hearing from the people that do understand what their government is doing, along with McCain.. They are hungry for the truth. They want WAshington to investigate before election and I am very proud people are blogging, talking, openly and often to the nation, and the World. This is about truth and truth only.

Regarding the vetting process.

That process included reviews of financial and other personal data, an FBI background check....

There was no FBI background check. Again, another misrepresentation from the McSame campaign.

Makes you wonder about the tax returns, though, doesn't it? While I am sure they were requested, possibly provided, did anyone ever look at them?

Question: if it turns out the Palin returns do not properly account for per diems and improperly include nondeductible expenses as discussed in Mr. Bog's post, does that amount to tax fraud, or something less which warrants at most assessing penalties? How does this compare in severity to Leona Helmsley's including personal items in her reported business expenses, or other tax cases involving public officials?

There is not enough information to know whether tax penalties might be applicable. Generally, taxpayers who act reasonably and in good faith are not subject to penalties.

There is, however, a separate question about how one's employer might react. Just ask the NBA referees who lost their jobs (at least temporarily) for not properly reporting nondeductible travel reimbursements on their tax returns.

I am no Sarah Palin fan--and I certainly think she should fully disclose her taxes, as is standard for candidates in her position. But I am wondering about other governors. I am guessing that David Patterson in NY spends more time in Manhatten than he does in Albany, although I could be wrong. Does he charge per diems to the state, also? Just wondering what the standard practices are.

"It is a 20-hour drive that crosses the Canadian border and then comes back into Alaska. Most people who need to make this trek don't drive it if they don't have to. They fly from Juneau to Anchorage; Wasilla is about 50 miles and an hour's drive from the Anchorage airport."

Ancilliary note here, but no one in their right mind would drive from Wasilla to Juneau, unless moving on a permanent basis.

First it is approximately 500 miles from Wasilla to Haines (requiring driving through Alaska, Canada (the Yukon Territory and British Columbia = BC), and then back in to Alaska at Haines and hence two border crossings.

Second, this is followed by an approximately 6 hours on the Alaska Marine Highway system, which is actually a ferry system.

Unless you are moving your car, it is actually WAY cheaper to fly out of Anchorage (even before the explosion of gas prices).

Additionally, including drive time to Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage (1.5 hours assuming rush hour traffic), check-in / wait time for a commercial flight (1.5 hours), and flight time (another 1.5 hours), the process would take approximately 4.5 hours of Sarah's time. This as opposed to approximately 16 hours of travel time (and most likely an overnight hotel stay), for taking the "highway" route.

As a Canadian who lived in Alaska for 7.5 years (including time in Wasilla while Sarah was mayor of the 'burg), who once was involved in the transportation business, and has made the trip from AK to BC a couple of times (once the AlCan and once using the "Marine Highway"), misunderstandings about the intricacies of transportation in Alaska just rub my craw the wrong way.

Palin is starting to seem more and more like Bush every day. She has no regard for what is fair and lies with no remorse when it suits her. (She also uses the SAME lecture at every stop and refuses to speak to reporters or voters.)

Some of these issues surrounding her are not significant other than that she LIED and continues to lie. That's the issue.

That Bridge to Nowhere part of her speech is a perfect example. As a governor, it's Ok to want the best for your state. I'm not saying the bridge wasn't a waste but I'm saying the point is that she DID want the bridge, she fought for the bridge, she took the money for the bridge.

Congress cancelled it and stopped funding it. Palin then decided to be against the bridge. That's her choice but let's be honest about it. Her decision may have been dictated by lack of funds or it could have been a sudden emergence of accountability (I doubt the latter but it's not relevant anyway.) She didn't have the money to build it at that point so she kind of had to be against it. She kept the money too. Not necessarily the issue here except that SHE LIED ABOUT THIS.

The point is that she is on record supporting the bridge and now says that wasn't the case. Had she not made it a point to brag about - she would have been able to escape this.

I guess she's smarter than I am - I assume people will stop trusting someone after they are caught in a lie. As Bush has proven, people will vote for any idiot and don't care if they are being lied to. The truth isn't exposed by the mainstream media anyway. They love Palin and the ratings she gets (ratings are high because people are shocked someone like Palin was chosen!)

If she wasn't so vicious and cut back on the lies, I'd give her a little more slack since she's not that bright and is clearly overwhelmed. For now, I just hope she gets what's coming to her during the investigation into Troopergate. Her conscience isn't going to kick in any time soon so I hope this comes out before the election.

I just hope she isn't in the White House someday making decisions. It's so eerily like Bush (the ego especially.)

I'm really scared people are buying what she's selling.

Why doesn't this story have legs? What is Palin hiding and more importantly why isn't the press pressing?

Only three candidates for President or Vice-President have waited this long to file their taxes. So much for transparency. The others on the delinquent list: Bush 41, Bush 43, Lieberman (2000).

Surprised? How hard is it to access a tax filing? I assume she has a copy?

That anyone believes she stands for transparency in government is beyond me. She rejects subpoenas for herself, her staff (and her husband as well) and she has not released her tax statements. Makes one wonder.


How can this woman claim to be "middle class" & just like me? Gee golly I don't come close to $125,000.00 a year (not counting what her hubby claims..I mean works for) I lost my home because it was taken from me! I was and still am ill from Fibromyalgia,chronic fatigue,arthritis and epstein-barr! My company that I worked for 25 refused to pay for negotiated medical leave pay that they approved! Because there is no one test to prove that you have these diseases (fibromyagia and chronic fatigue) How dare she compare her self to me??? I too have a special needs child. I bet her's gets to go to "special" schools that don't cost her a dime. My 16 year old son is now volentering to make phone calls for Obama & Biden. He may had special needs...but, he isn't stupid!!

Sincerely: A real used to be middle class mom.

I would be very interested in finding out, now that we at least have the 2006 and 2007 returns, is there evidence of tax fraud or shady accounting as to the per diems or any of the claimed deductions.

I doubt that the IRS would pursue fraud or other penalties over the reimbursed travel and per diems. But if the Palins omitted, say, $40,000 of taxable income, which they clearly did in my view, the underpaid tax on that would be in the neighborhood of $12,000, plus interest.

There are other issues in the returns. But I'm not taking McCain's invitation to throw them away on a Friday night. Maybe Sunday night or Monday morning.

Thank you for the reply. The strangest aspect of these returns to me (as a non-accountant anyway) is that the Palins supposedly went to H&R Block to have these returns prepared, and that they were prepared on Sept. 10th, after they knew she was the VP pick and that her returns would be examined by a lot of people. I bet there's a lot of fishy stuff here, and the MSM is going to devote a fair amount of time to this on Monday. McCain might get a question or two on this at Tuesday's town hall as well. I look forward to finding out what concerns you about the returns.

The 2007 return I have is dated September 3, but that was indeed after her nomination was announced.

Toast makes a good point - Her decision to not use an appropriate professional to handle her obvious and unique situation is very telling...........

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