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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Brown releases joint tax return showing $320K in income, more than $69K in taxes

Both Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and challenger Lisa Brown have now released their 2017 tax returns. (SR)

Democratic congressional candidate Lisa Brown and her husband had more income in 2017 than U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her husband, paid more taxes and got a higher refund.

A comparison of the two couples’ 2017 tax returns shows a few similarities: Both have enough expenses like state taxes and charitable contributions that they itemize deductions; both have rental properties with expenses that outstrip the income; both overpaid their taxes during the year.

McMorris Rodgers made her family’s 2016 and 2017 tax returns public Wednesday morning, the day after the filing deadline, in what she described as an effort to be transparent and foster trust in government. The Spokesman-Review, which had requested and received her 2016 returns previously in working on stories about the 2017 tax reform laws, was given an early copy of last year’s return for the story that appeared in Wednesday’s paper to coincide with the timing of the public release.

Brown had refused requests late last year and early this year to release her 2016 return for the stories on tax reform. She agreed late Tuesday evening to release her 2017 return, just finished that day, after learning McMorris Rodgers was releasing hers. It was too late to include those details in the story for Wednesday’s print edition, but the newspaper agreed to do a followup to the original story.

“She does support openness and transparency in government, and more important, public trust in government,” Jack Sorensen, Brown’s campaign spokesman said Wednesday.

Brown filed financial reports with the Public Disclosure Commission during her 20 years in the Legislature, he said, but declined the newspaper’s request to release her 2016 returns when asked earlier because she wasn’t running for office that year. She became a candidate in 2017 and agreed to release that return after being asked Tuesday, he said.

For Brown, who was married last fall to City of Spokane policy adviser Brian McClatchey, it was her first time for filing jointly. Together, the couple had wages totaling $319,401, which includes Brown’s salary for the first eight months of the year as Washington State University-Spokane chancellor, which she has previously reported as $283,749. But wages reported on a tax form are often reduced from the total amount an employee receives through contributions to 401(K) plans or medical savings accounts.

Their total income grew by about $600 from interest they earned and other payments, but their two rental properties in Spokane did not add to it. Both properties had more in expenses like insurance, taxes, mortgage interest and depreciation than they brought in through rent. Their adjusted gross income reported at the bottom of the front of the 1040 return, and the top of the back, was $320,030.

That’s almost 50 percent more than McMorris Rodgers and her husband Brian Rodgers, who reported an adjusted gross income of $214,954.

Brown and McClatchey were able to deduct sales and real estate taxes totaling $4,427, another $10,658 for mortgage interest they paid and $15,766 in charitable donations. That allowed them to deduct a total of $30,664, rather than the standard deduction of $12,700. Exemptions of $7,614 reduced their total taxable income, and extra taxes for Medicare and investment income increased their total tax bill to $69,487 for 2017.

That’s about two and a half times more than McMorris Rodgers and her husband, in part because Brown and McClatchey are in a higher tax bracket and have fewer exemptions.

But the couple had already paid $77,226 in taxes during 2017, so they’ll get a refund of $7,739 at some point.