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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden signs a copy of his book "Promise Me, Dad" at a campaign rally Jan. 5, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP) Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden signs a copy of his book "Promise Me, Dad" at a campaign rally Jan. 5, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden signs a copy of his book "Promise Me, Dad" at a campaign rally Jan. 5, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP)

Monique Curet
By Monique Curet October 22, 2020

Biden’s income sources aren’t such a big mystery

If Your Time is short

• Joe Biden and his wife reported $396,456 in adjusted gross income in 2016, the last full year he served as vice president.

• In the years since he left office, the couple reported adjusted gross income of $11,031,309 in 2017, $4,580,437 in 2018 and $985,233 in 2019, for a total of $16,596,979.

• The Bidens’ income sources are reported on tax returns and financial disclosures that they have made public, and most of their income in recent years has come from speaking fees and book deals.

When Joe Biden left office in early 2017 after four years as vice president, his finances reflected the salary he earned as a longtime public servant. He and his wife, Jill, a teacher and professor, reported adjusted gross income of just under $400,000 on their joint tax return form in 2016.

In the years that followed, though, their adjusted gross income ballooned: to about $11 million in 2017, plus another $5.6 million over 2018 and 2019.

The change intrigued social media users. One Facebook post says, "Joe & Jill Biden’s income went from $396,456 in 2016, to $16,596,979 in 2017-2019. Anyone else want to know where that money is coming from?"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) It’s among several posts that have tried to raise questions about the sources of the Bidens’ wealth.

The post compares a one-year income figure to a combined three years, inflating the difference somewhat. But the figures themselves are right on the money: The Bidens reported earning $396,456 in 2016 and a total of $16,596,979 from 2017 to 2019 — which includes $11,031,309 in 2017; $4,580,437 in 2018; and $985,233 in 2019.

But the big mystery postulated in the claim — "Anyone else want to know where that money is coming from?" — is not such a big mystery. Many of the answers are detailed in the tax documents the Bidens have made public, which make clear that their big income gain for those years came mostly from fees for speaking engagements and book deals.

Most of Joe Biden’s paid speeches from late 2017 through mid-2018 were part of a tour promoting his November 2017 book "Promise Me, Dad," a New York Times bestseller about the loss of his son Beau to brain cancer. 

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Biden’s book-tour events brought income ranging from a low of $8,000 to one "VIP experience" that commanded nearly $235,000 and included preferential seating and a reception, according to his presidential financial disclosure form. Biden earned a total of $1.8 million from 30 book tour events, based on the disclosure. The book sold more than 300,000 copies, Forbes reported

"Promise Me, Dad" was part of a deal Biden struck with Flatiron Books to write two non-fiction works as well as a third book with Jill Biden, according to Publishers Weekly, which reported that the three-book deal was worth $8 million.

Besides his book tour, Biden participated in events such as the MPSF Speaker Series in California, where he delivered four speeches around the state for a total of about $500,000, according to the financial disclosure. From late 2017 through July 2019, he had 19 speaking engagements that earned him a total of $2.4 million, the disclosure says.

The Bidens’ sources of income from 2017 through summer 2019 also included Jill Biden’s speaking engagements, which brought in about $700,000, and Joe Biden’s job as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, which paid an annual salary of $540,484, according to the disclosure. 

The money the Bidens earned from book deals and speaking engagements was routed through two S corporations they formed, CelticCapri Corp. and Giacoppa Corp. In his 2019 presidential financial disclosure form, Joe Biden lists $425,000 in salary and $2.8 million in a distributive share from CelticCapri.

Our ruling

A Facebook post says Joe and Jill Biden’s income jumped from $396,456 in 2016 to a combined $16,596,979 in 2017-2019, and asks "Anyone else want to know where that money is coming from?"

The suggestion that the Bidens’ income sources are unknown is misleading. They are substantially explained on the tax returns and financial disclosures that the Bidens made public. Those documents show that the Bidens’ increased income from 2017 to 2019 came mostly from speaking engagements and book deals.

This claim takes the Bidens’ reported incomes from 2016-2019 out of context. We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Amazon.com, "Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose," accessed Oct. 20, 2020

CNBC, "Joe Biden used this strategy to trim his tax bill. You can, too," Aug. 6, 2019

Facebook post, Oct. 19, 2020

Forbes, The Bidens made nearly twice as much in 2017 than previous 19 years combined," July 10, 2019

JoeBiden.com, "Financial disclosures & tax returns," accessed Oct. 20, 2020

Penn Today, "Vice President Joe Biden to lead the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement," Feb. 1, 2017

Publishers Weekly, "Biden books go to Flatiron," April 5, 2017

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Biden’s income sources aren’t such a big mystery

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