What 15 years of tax returns show about Harris

Documents show her earnings from prosecutor to senator

tax returns
JACK KURTZ/ZUMA PRESS/TNS
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) waits to speak at a house party meet and greet for her presidential campaign in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 11.

BY MELANIE MASON AND MATT PEARCE
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris released 15 years of tax returns on April 14, offering a glimpse into how the California public servant ascended the financial ranks to become a multimillionaire.

The documents span the entirety of Harris’ career in elected office, from her $142,000 salary as San Francisco district attorney in 2004 to her current post as U.S. senator.

Harris and her husband, Los Angeles-based attorney Douglas Emhoff, jointly reported more than $2 million in income last year, for which they paid nearly $700,000 in taxes.

The tax returns mark the most sweeping look yet at a presidential contender’s personal finances, edging out Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand, who each have released more than a decade’s worth of tax documents.

Demanding Trump’s

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an early front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination released 10 years of returns this week.

Meanwhile, Democrats ratcheted up pressure on President Donald Trump to hand over copies of his tax returns. Trump famously bucked decades of tradition by declining to divulge his returns during his 2016 campaign or since he entered office. On April 13, Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig demanding six years of the president’s personal and business returns within 10 days.

“This request is about policy, not politics,” Neal wrote in the two-page letter. He cited a 1924 law that says the Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, “shall furnish” tax returns to Congress when requested.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said last weekend that lawmakers would “never” see Trump’s returns.

Harris’ income

Harris’ full disclosure is a “stark contrast” to Trump, her campaign said. The California senator also supports a proposed federal law that would require a president’s tax returns be made public.

Harris’ taxes were relatively straightforward in her early years of elected office. Her income as district attorney climbed from around $142,000 to just over $260,000 during her two terms in office; her average effective tax rate at the time was around 20 percent.

Her income dipped to about $160,000 when she took office as state attorney general in 2011, and fell further the next two years. Harris made no charitable contributions her first three years in that job.

Charitable contributions

After her marriage to Emhoff in 2014, Harris’ fortunes grew substantially. That year, the couple reported more than $1.3 million in income and paid more than $410,000 in taxes. They reported giving more than $60,000 to charity, including $15,000 to the American Cancer Society.

Those donations dropped in subsequent years, ranging from around $18,000 to $37,000.

The bulk of the giving was through Emhoff’s law firms; other favorite causes include UNICEF and Harris and Emhoff’s respective alma maters, Howard University and the University of Southern California.

Husband’s earnings

Emhoff, a litigator specializing in intellectual property, was a partner at the firm Venable before he joined DLA Piper last year. The returns show Emhoff earning at least $1 million each year for his work.

In the five years the couple have filed joint returns, they have paid more than $2 million in taxes, with an average effective tax rate of more than 30%.

Also boosting the family coffers was Harris’ most recent book, “The Truths We Hold.”

Harris was paid more than $730,000 for the memoir and a companion children’s book, which were released in January. She reported more than $400,000 in expenses relating to the project.

Three mortgages

The tax returns are just the latest insight into Harris’ finances, supplementing the disclosures that she and other members of Congress must file annually.

Harris’ most recent U.S. Senate filing for 2017 said that the couple held somewhere between $2.2 million and $5.4 million in assets, split among bank accounts, mutual funds, retirement plans and Emhoff’s partnership stake in Venable.

The U.S. Senate disclosure did not include real estate, but listed more than $2.1 million in three mortgages taken out by the couple.

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