AG Abbott releases tax returns



Greg Abbott

PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released personal tax returns Friday that show the Republican gubernatorial candidate earning about $200,000 a year but does not reflect millions of tax-exempt dollars made from a settlement following his 1984 accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Abbott has received more than $5 million and counting from suing the owner of a tree that fell on him during a jog as a young law student. That money is not taxable income, which is common in personal injury settlements. But it also makes his federal tax returns since 2010 an incomplete picture of the wealth of Texas’ top cop, who is the early favorite to replace Gov. Rick Perry in 2014.

Abbott provided The Associated Press with copies of his 2010-12 returns. But in an interview with AP, he would not commit to releasing earlier filings.

“This covers a solid background since I last ran for election,” said Abbott, who was first elected attorney general in 2002.

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Abbott pledged to release future tax returns as governor. But asked about his aversion to releasing previous years, Abbott said, “I just think this is a good standard.”

It is a stance that contrasts with Perry, who released his tax returns dating to the 1990s during campaigns that made him Texas’ longest-serving governor. He has said candidates running for public office should be transparent with federal tax filings.

Perry, who is not running for re-election after 14 years, has used tax returns as a political cudgel. During his last re-election bid, in 2010, Perry refused to debate former Houston Mayor Bill White until the Democrat released his returns. He similarly criticized Mitt Romney two years later while they competed for the Republican presidential nomination.

Abbott, 55, was first elected to public office as a state district judge in 1992. He also spent six years on the Texas Supreme Court.

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He said not meeting Perry’s level of disclosure was, in part, due to a matter of access to earlier returns.

“Frankly, this is what I have right now. I moved,” Abbott said. “It’s not that I don’t know where they are. I don’t have them.”

Abbott makes $150,000 annually as attorney general. His wife, Cecilia, makes about $50,000 a year at Harden Healthcare, where she is the managing director of community relations.

None of Abbott’s returns since 2010 exceed more than 20 pages. The filings are relatively straightforward compared with the returns of other politicians, whose filings reveal multiple real estate holdings, foreign tax credits or oil and gas royalties. Abbott’s filings show none of those.

He instead has primarily invested in mutual funds — a strategy he described as part personal preference and part to avoid conflicts of interest in his job. Abbott said he currently manages his own portfolio but does not know what companies are invested in his mutual funds. His 2012 filings show more than $177,000 in recent performance losses.

Among his few stock holdings is Youku Tudou Inc., a Chinese Internet television startup, which Abbott said “is supposed to be the China version of YouTube.”

“It was just something popular that you read about. It could be in the Wall Street Journal,” Abbott said. “I couldn’t tell you sitting here right now how I heard about it.”

The filings also show Abbott to give less to charity than some of his political peers. He claimed $3,014 in charitable deductions last year and $6,620 in 2011.

Abbott wrote off $2,426 in charity in 2010 — less than a half-percent of the more than $700,000 he was due to earn that year between his income and his settlement. According to a copy of the settlement released by his campaign, Abbott is guaranteed monthly deposits currently worth about $14,400. He also receives six-figure, lump-sum payments every three years.

His most recent lump-sum payment was $350,000 in 2010.

Abbott said his tax return does not reflect all of his charitable giving, estimating that he donates $1,000 to $2,000 more each year than what his filings indicate. The filings do not spell out to whom he donated money, and Abbott did not provide a list.

Abbott, who is Catholic, said most of his tithing goes to his church. He said he also has donated to the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where Cecilia Abbott serves on the board of directors. Abbott said he and Cecilia are also active in buying food to deliver to the homeless.

“We view charity as something you do on an ongoing basis,” Abbott said. “It’s less a percentage. It’s more of a daily perspective and activity.”

Abbott would not say whether he considered himself wealthy.

“I consider myself to be wealthy with a great family,” Abbott said. “With money? I don’t know what the definition of wealthy is.”