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Q&A: Nobel winnings not taxed if they go directly to charity

Taxing Nobel winnings

Does President Barack Obama have to pay income tax on his Nobel Peace Prize winnings?

President Barack Obama has announced that he is donating the $1.4 million he won to various charities, including groups that help students afford college, veterans' families and survivors of Haiti's earthquake. By donating the money to charity, Obama will not have to pay income tax on the winnings, according to tax giant H&R Block.

In general, taxpayers can avoid income taxes on awards for meritorious achievement, as long as they direct that the prize money be paid directly to a qualified charity or government unit, H&R Block says. If Obama had kept the money, he would have to pay taxes on it.

Promoting marriage, fatherhood

I have heard about a program or agency called the Healthy Marriage Initiative, which I think came into existence during the first term of George W. Bush's presidency. Can you tell me what it is supposed to do and how much it costs the taxpayers per year?

The Healthy Marriage Initiative receives funding of $150 million annually for the promotion of healthy marriages and fatherhood.

The money is used for research, projects and activities that encourage healthy marriages and promote "involved, committed, and responsible fatherhood" by public and private entities and provides technical assistance for the states, according to the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children & Families, which oversees the program (www.acf.hhs.gov/healthymarriage).

Those activities include public advertising campaigns, education in high schools, marriage and parenting education and mentoring programs.

Balancing the federal budget

When was the last time the federal budget was balanced at $0, and under what president?

The budget has never been balanced at exactly zero, though Woodrow Wilson came close in 1913 and 1914, with a deficit less than $1 million.

Given the size of the economy, the deficit fluctuates a lot and it's impossible to predict what it will be, mostly because tax collections depend a lot on the economy and how the stock market is doing.

For four years from 1998 to 2001, under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the government ran surpluses ranging from $69 billion to $236 billion. Those surpluses went away with the recession of 2001, the popping of the stock market bubble and a wave of spending in the wake of 9/11. Tax cuts also contributed to the returning deficit.

In 2001, Bush supposedly inherited surpluses projected at $5.6 trillion over 10 years. But those guesses were way off as they were based on revenue models that turned out to be very flawed.

Q&A: Nobel winnings not taxed if they go directly to charity 04/11/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 11, 2010 5:30am]

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