WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney may be No. 2 at the White House, but he surpassed his boss last year when it came to earnings and taxable income.

On their 2004 federal income-tax returns, which the White House released Friday, the vice president and his wife, Lynne Cheney, reported $1,328,678 in earnings last year, which produced a $393,518 tax bill. They paid $290,855 through withholding and estimated tax payments. They paid the remaining $102,663 when they filed their return Friday.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush reported $672,788 in taxable earnings for 2004 and paid $207,307 in federal taxes, according to their returns. The Bushes’ earnings were less than the $822,126 in adjusted gross income they reported for 2003, on which they paid $227,490 in federal taxes.

The Bushes listed his presidential salary and investment income from trusts that hold their assets as their sources of income.

Although Cheney’s income was nearly twice Bush’s, Cheney’s average rate of taxation – 29.6 percent – was lower than Bush’s, which was 30.8 percent.

That’s because Cheney had a large amount of charitable deductions and other itemized deductions.

On their return, the Cheneys listed his $203,000 government salary and $194,852 in deferred compensation he received from the Halliburton Co., where he was chief executive officer from 1995 to 2000.

Cheney struck a deal with the oil giant in December 1998 to have his 1999 salary paid in fixed annual installments – including interest – over a five-year period after his retirement from the company.

The White House stressed in a written statement that Cheney’s decision to defer compensation was final and unalterable “before Mr. Cheney left Halliburton.”

“The amount of deferred compensation received before Mr. Cheney left is fixed and not affected by Halliburton’s current economic performance or earnings.”

Halliburton has come under fire from some lawmakers and the Pentagon, which claimed in portions of audits released this week that the Dallas-based company may have overcharged the U.S. government by $212 million under contracts to help rebuild Iraq’s oil industry and supply fuel to Iraqi citizens.

In addition to his Halliburton income and White House salary, the Cheney family income was boosted by Lynne Cheney’s salary from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research center, and compensation from Readers Digest, where she served on the board of directors until her retirement in 2003.

The Cheneys and the Bushes gave heavily to charities. The Cheneys donated $303,354 last year, mainly royalties from publisher Simon & Schuster for Lynne Cheney’s books “America: A Patriotic Primer,” “A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women” and “When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots.”

The president and first lady contributed $77,785 to churches and charitable groups that include the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Evergreen Chapel at Camp David, St. John’s Church, AmeriCares and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

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