What Bloomberg’s tax return might tell us — if we get to see it

Personal Finance

Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks to supporters at a rally on February 20, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

George Frey | Getty Images

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s income tax return might not tell us much. It depends on how much of it he releases.

If returns are heavily redacted, for example, they won’t tell you everything about any one filer’s finances.

“Will this disclosure look like what he did as mayor of New York?” asked Tony Nitti, CPA and tax partner with RubinBrown in Aspen, Colorado. “In which case, we won’t learn anything at all.”

Bloomberg, whose net worth is an estimated $63.7 billion, has said that he released his tax returns annually during his 12-year tenure as mayor.

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There was a catch, of course. The mayor would invite reporters to peruse edited returns, redacted to conceal exact amounts, for a few hours, according to a 2013 report from The Wall Street Journal.

Instead of detailing dollar figures, the billionaire’s accountant would use a letter that corresponded to a range of amounts, the Journal found.

For example, “G” corresponded with “$500,000 or more.” The letter made frequent appearances on Bloomberg’s Form 1040, according to a 2012 report from WNYC.

Bloomberg’s campaign did not respond to multiple calls and emails.

Unredacted returns, by contrast, offer a lot more insight into a person’s finances, if they’re combined with other documents such as a statement of net worth.

Here are a few areas to key in on if Bloomberg releases an unedited copy of his returns.

Partnership income

Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg delivers remarks during a campaign rally on February 12, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Brett Carlsen | Getty Images

The first two pages of a Form 1040 sum up your taxable income.

However, all those data points flow in from the attached schedules that accompany your return.

Schedule E, which spells out income or losses from partnerships, S-corporations and rental real estate, would be a highlight of the billionaire’s return.

That’s because income he receives via Bloomberg LP, the giant financial data and media company, would be reported there.

The billionaire owns 88% of the business, according to Forbes.

Knowing Bloomberg’s share of income from the business could give some insight into income generated by the partnership, Nitti said.

“If we get a Schedule E that shows income from Bloomberg LP, people will zero in on it,” he said.

The tax returns for the company itself would be even more telling — if they were released.

“Schedule E only refers to his deductions and flow-through income,” said Ryan Losi, CPA and executive vice president of Piascik, an accounting firm in Glen Allen, Virginia.

Foreign account reports

DuKai photographer

When Bloomberg shared the redacted details of his 2012 finances, journalists found out he held money in accounts in Hong Kong, Paris, London and Bermuda, according to the Journal.

If the presidential candidate still holds funds overseas, he’ll need to file a report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or FBAR, with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Americans are required to submit a FBAR if they have an interest in or signatory authority over at least one account outside the U.S., and the aggregate value of all the foreign accounts exceeded $10,000 at any time in the year.

There’s a $12,921 penalty for non-willfully failing to file, while individuals who flout the law could face fines of up to $129,210 or 50% of the account.

“The FBAR will tell you where the cash is stashed, the type of account and the maximum value of the year,” said Losi.

“Meanwhile, the income tax return will only show you the interest, dividends and capital gains derived from those accounts — not the actual values,” he said.

Further, citizens who submit a FBAR may also need to turn in Form 8938 to the IRS.

This “statement of specified foreign financial assets” is attached to taxpayers’ income tax return.

Taxpayers have until April 15 to file a FBAR, but they get an automatic six-month extension if they miss the deadline. Meanwhile, Form 8938 is due with your return.

Charitable giving

Tomoji Hirakata | Getty Images

Individuals who take itemized deductions, including tax breaks for charitable giving, spell out their write-offs on Schedule A.

Gifts by cash or check are straightforward, but gifts of appreciated stock, real estate and other property require taxpayers to fill out Form 8283, which details noncash contributions.

What we might see on Bloomberg’s 1040 is the amount of money that goes to Bloomberg Philanthropies, his charitable giving initiative, said Nitti.

The candidate contributed $450 million to the Bloomberg Family Foundation in 2017, according to the foundation’s tax return for that year.

Grant recipients include Oceana ($6.06 million to support the Vibrant Oceans Initiative) and Everytown for Gun Safety ($5 million), according to the return.

The candidate also donated close to $95 million to Johns Hopkins, his Baltimore-based alma mater in 2017.

The funds supported a range of causes, including the Bloomberg American Health Initiative and the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

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