Joe Biden publishes tax returns for 2019 forward of the presidential debate

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill wave to the crowd during his 2020 kick-off rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Saturday, May 18, 2019.

Tom Williams | CQ appeal group | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his counterpart Kamala Harris released their 2019 tax returns on Tuesday, just hours before Biden's first debate with President Donald Trump.

The returns show that Biden and his wife Jill reported taxable income of $ 944,737 and paid $ 299,346, or a tax rate of 31%, of federal income taxes over the past year. The Bidens also said they made donations of $ 14,700 to charity.

The income of the Bidens last year is a significant decrease compared to the two previous years. In 2017, the couple said they made more than $ 11 million, and in 2018 they made $ 4.5 million. In both years most of the income came from book stores.

Harris and her husband, Attorney Doug Emhoff, reported $ 3,018,127 in taxable income, largely through Emhoff's partnership with global law firm DLA Piper. They paid federal taxes of $ 1,185,628, or an effective tax rate of 39%. Harris and Emhoff also reported that they made $ 35,390 in charitable donations over the past year.

The release was a strategic move that came less than 48 hours after the New York Times published a bomb investigation based on Trump's tax returns worth more than a decade and shows that he is only reporting $ 750 in 2016 and 2017 has paid individual federal income taxes.

The Times also noted that Trump did not pay federal income taxes for the 15 years before he was elected to the White House, as his companies lost hundreds of millions of dollars that he could use to reduce his tax burden. Trump called the Times revelation "false news" but did not directly dispute any of the numbers in it.

"This is a historic level of transparency that should reassure the American people that their leaders are looking for them, not their own bottom line," Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Biden, told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

For the past three years, Trump's tax returns have taken on an almost mythical quality since he broke the decade-long protocol of the presidential campaign and refused to publish his tax returns during his 2016 campaign.

As the richest American president in modern history, Trump has never been shy about employing accountants to cut his tax burden or aggressively looking for ways to minimize the tax burden for his sprawling real estate and licensing company.

In 2016, during his first debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump claimed that failing to pay income taxes "makes me smart".

But many Americans were shocked to learn this week how little Trump paid.

In 2016 and 2017, Biden paid far more taxes than Trump, even though he wasn't making nearly as much money.

In 2016, the Bidens paid $ 87,000 in federal income taxes on an income of $ 338,000. That year, Trump paid $ 750.

The following year, the Bidens paid $ 3.7 million in federal income taxes on revenues of just over $ 11 million. That same year, Trump paid $ 750.

You can find Bidens' 2019 state and state tax returns here.

Harris and Emhoff's 2019 state and state tax returns can be found here.

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