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McCain's Tax Returns Hide Gambling

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Senator John McCain is a gambler. If I'd known that right away I would have immediately seen what was wrong with his tax returns.

I am a tax attorney, so a tax return means more to me than it would to most. I reviewed McCain's tax returns as a basic check on the candidates. You can look at McCain's 2006 and 2007 tax returns for yourself. The tax returns are below a lot of verbiage about his charitable activities.

According to a New York Times article of September 27, 2008 "For McCain and Team, a Host of Ties to Gambling," reported by Jo Becker and Don VanNatta Jr., McCain gambled at the MGM Grand in May 2007.

Apparently McCain is a habitual gambler; he usually plays craps. He even says, "I am a gambling man."

Gambling has tax implications. According to IRS Publication 17, "Your Federal Income Tax", 2007 edition, page 89 "Gambling Winnings. You must include your gambling winnings in income on Form 1040, line 21. If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), you can deduct gambling losses you had during the year, but only up to the amount of your winnings." In other words, you can't subtract your losses from your winnings and just not report. You have to report the winnings, and then claim the losses.

But McCain's tax returns say nothing about gambling winnings or losses.

As a casino gambler, McCain is likely to have lost more than he won. But by not reporting his winnings, the different percentage calculations built into the tax calculation are thrown off, and if he gambled much at all, he has underpaid his tax. The amount of understatement of tax may be minimal, but that's not the point.

The real purpose of preparing his tax return and omitting the gambling winnings is so that people would not know how much he gambled. If he won $200,000 playing craps in Las Vegas, it would make a difference in the way voters viewed his suitability as a presidential candidate.

There are circumstances under which the tax returns could be correct, such as McCain gambled once in 2007, not at all in 2006, and lost everything the one time he gambled. Such an explanation is unlikely in light of McCain's alleged long history of gambling.

I think we are looking at tax returns calculated to hide an aspect of the candidate. My 35 years of experience in taxes tells me these tax returns are wrong, and we do not know the true scope of McCain's gambling or of his potential obligations to gambling enterprises.