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Bombshell report reveals how Colorado’s Democratic governor avoided paying taxes

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Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis is under fire after a new trove of documents revealed he used loopholes to avoid paying federal income taxes for years.

Driving the news: A ProPublica report published Thursday found Polis, a tech entrepreneur and former congressman, used donations and financial arrangements to get out of paying federal income taxes in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

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Of note: His wealth reached an estimated $306 million in 2017, and he was ranked the third-wealthiest member of the U.S. House.

  • From 2010 to 2018, Polis’ tax rate was just 8.2% even though his income averaged $1.5 million during that period. The rate is far below the 19% level owed by an average worker, the investigative news outlet wrote.

  • He also did not pay federal income taxes between 2001 and 2005 — a disclosure that first came to light during his 2008 run for Congress.

Why it matters: The revelation offers a glimpse into the governor’s finances, which he refused to provide to voters in the 2018 campaign, when he pumped $23 million from his own pocket into the race.

It also adds context to the governor’s policy approach to taxes, which is often at odds with that of his party.

Details: Polis managed to lower his tax rate through legal means — largely philanthropic donations that eliminated half his income tax liability.

  • He donated to his own charity, the Jared Polis Foundation, which spent $2 million on mailers promoting his work on the state’s education board.

  • Another strategy he deployed to avoid tax exposure was investing in companies that produce little income even as their valuation increases.

To shelter his income from taxes, Polis also used a family business, Jovian Holdings, the report found. That company’s board includes family members as its directors and his friend Art Laffer, a conservative economist.

What he’s saying: Facing questions Thursday, Polis told Colorado Public Radio he paid all that is required by law and noted he agrees the tax system favors the wealthy and corporations.

The other side: ProPublica’s report drew criticism from across the political spectrum.

  • “This is a shocking investigation into Jared Polis’ real background. No wonder he has worked so hard to hide these facts from Colorado voters,” state GOP chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said in a statement.

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