As the 2012 election draws near, and taxes take center stage in that election, politicians and pundits are weighing in on Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s personal taxes. Will he release any of his returns for years before 2010? Did he really not pay any tax at all in some of those years? Is there something in those returns that he fears might jeopardize his campaign?

But Mitt Romney isn’t the only candidate enjoying tax-advantaged income. President Barack Obama, like Presidents before him, enjoys tax-free benefits that would make most corporate CEOs drool with envy. And it’s not a scandal – it’s all out in the open for any voter to see.

Let’s start with the basics. The President earns a $400,000 annual salary – barely enough, by itself, to put him in the much-vaunted “1%.” He also gets a $50,000 annual entertainment allowance, which helps support those State Dinners.

But salary and allowance are just the tip of the President’s compensation iceberg. For starters, there’s a 55,000 square-foot house on 18 prime acres of Washington real estate that estimates would rent for $1,752,296 per month. (The tax alone on the value of that rent is $7.36 million per year.) There’s also a rustic cottage just outside DC, staffed by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, that he uses as a vacation retreat.

Next, there’s security. Plenty of CEOs and celebrities hire bodyguards to ward off real or imagined threats. And that security may be tax-deductible. (Hard for the IRS to collect tax on your income if you’re not alive to earn it.) But the President’s Secret Service protection is tax-free, and his guards are the best of the best. While the exact value of the President’s protection is a closely-guarded secret, the House of Representatives voted $113 million in funding for the 2012 campaign.

Those of you who travel often will probably agree that the President’s most valuable perk is the privilege to fly without the usual TSA “perp walk.” CEOs typically fly Gulfstreams, Bombardiers, and similar aircraft, with barely enough headroom to stand up straight. The President, on the other hand, enjoys not one, but two fully-loaded 747-200Bs, both equipped with executive stateroom, office, conference room, and state-of-the-art navigation and communications systems that let him conduct business in the air, even if the country is under attack. (The term “Air Force One” doesn’t refer to a specific plane – it’s the official air traffic control signal for any aircraft carrying the President.) Corporate jets typically carry a dozen passengers and cost $3,000 to $6,000 per hour to operate, while Air Force One carries 102 passengers and crew and costs a whopping $181,000 per hour.

Then there are the “little” perks that ease the stress of leading the free world. The fawning staff. The private chefs. The first-run movies, delivered straight to your own “media room.” Fully tax-free, of course . . . who can even figure out how to tax them?

The perks won’t stop when the President leaves office. As with all former Presidents, he’ll enjoy a pension equal to a Cabinet-level salary (currently $199,700). He’ll enjoy continued Secret Service protection, for himself and his family, for 10 years from the date he leaves office. He’ll get reimbursed for staff, travel, and office expenses. And he’ll be able to earn a small fortune writing memoirs and giving speeches – although that fortune will be fully taxable.

Most of us would agree that any President earns every dime we pay him, whether that income takes the form of salary or benefits. But you don’t have to be President of the United States to profit from tax-free perks and benefits. Helping you make the most of those opportunities for your business is a big part of our business. Call us for a plan that makes the most of your opportunities!

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