published Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Romney's unseen tax filings

Mitt Romney's admission last week that most of his income is taxed at the 15 percent rate on dividends -- a privilege that most benefits the ultra-wealthy, as opposed to the higher income tax rates (up to 35 percent) on the incomes of 99 percent of Americans -- was notable mainly for his continued resistance to disclosing his tax returns for all prior years.

Indeed, Romney has promised only to disclose his tax returns for 2011, and then only in the tax-filing deadline month of April. That would give him the opportunity to defer or shelter much of last year's income in trusts, restricting transparency and an unvarnished view of the dimensions of his fortune and how he earned it.

American voters deserve much broader information and full disclosure of his income tax returns. The public has a right to how an admittedly rich presidential aspirant has made his money, what causes he has supported, and what sort of finagling he has done, if any, to avoid or diminish his tax burden.

Romney's obligation to disclose his financial history is a matter of public trust and candor. It also represents a sense of duty and responsibility to the precedents for full disclosure set by prior presidents dating back to 1968. Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and their predecessors back to Richard Nixon in 1968 have disclosed their tax returns. By withholding his, Romney raises questions, and suspicions, about why he would refuse to do the same.

There is further irony in his resistance. Romney's father disclosed his tax returns when, as governor of Michigan, he ran against Nixon for the presidential nomination. Mitt, the son, should follow that course.

There may be reasons for Mitt Romney's reluctance to match his father's record. He obviously wants to avoid revealing the dimensions of his wealth -- frequently estimated to be around or above $250 million -- because his income as a venture capitalist may reveal unwanted information about the companies he bought at Bain Capital, reorganized and sold, and the fate of their employees.

Similarly, his huge gifts to the Mormon Church -- millions through his tithing, and other millions for the church through his family foundation -- might bring more critical attention from the GOP's evangelical wing, which is already wary of a religion and church they disavow.

In the more general public realm, the tax policies that he is supporting in his campaign clearly would entrench the low tax advantage that applies to his unusual wealth, yet raise taxes on ordinary wage earners.

His support for making permanent the high-end Bush tax cuts would give people earning more than a million dollars in annual income an average tax cut of $295,874, according to an widely accepted analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. By contrast, he advocates terminating some Obama tax cuts for the middle class, which would raise taxes on people earning less than $40,000 a year.

Romney, to be sure, may be so removed from mainstream America by his wealth that such yawning discrepancies between the burden of taxes for average Americans and ultra-wealthy do not move him. As a venture capitalist, his annual income may not approach that of Wall Street's top hedge fund managers: the top 25 made a total of $22 billion last year, an average of $800 million each annually, according to a report by "Absolute Return + Alpha," the magazine that keeps up with that privileged crowd. Regardless, his tax policies would continue their advantage, and his, while increasing the tax burden of most other Americans.

By revealing his tax returns, he would provide American voters more practical information about the walk he walks. Obviously, that scares Romney, but it's information voters deserve to know.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.

Wow I do not understand how that the concern of Romney's tax returns is such an issue. He stated last week that he would in fact release multiple years. Santorum & Paul have both said they have no intentions of releasing theirs but they are getting a pass. Newt did release his 2010 taxes not anything earlier which would have included the F&F monies.

Not showing tax returns is nothing new because, in 1994 Romney asked Ted Kennedy to do this in which Kennedy refused and declared he was not required to therefore he would not and he also got a pass.

The fact he also only paid 15% in taxes is a simple one that has been explained many times by finical specialist. He has no working income so the tax he is paying along with anyone else in America comes from the money that they are just drawing money off their investments. The 15% was also 75% more than most Americans are paying. The other point is, the monies he will pay on 15% of his earnings will be substantially more than most Americans.

January 22, 2012 at 12:55 a.m.
conservative said...

"Mitt Romney's admission last week that most of his income is taxed at the 15 percent rate on dividends"

So what, that admission is a "disclosure." That 15% rate applies to ALL, rich or poor who buy stocks that pay a dividend. This is just another example of the envy and greed of Lieberals, who make up most of the 47% who pay the 0% tax rate. Furthermore, this tax paid by Romney funds the programs these same 0% benefit from. Now who is paying their fair share?

January 22, 2012 at 8:51 a.m.
fechancellor said...

"Romney, to be sure, may be so removed from mainstream America by his wealth that such yawning discrepancies between the burden of taxes for average Americans and ultra-wealthy do not move him."

"Romney, to be sure, may be so removed..."

Which is it? Either Romney is surely out of touch or Romney may be out of touch?

I can't remember when I've seen an editorial double down by qualifying its own qualifier in the same sentence.

January 22, 2012 at 1:41 p.m.

Ah conservative, you mislead again. The 47% still have taxes to pay, saying 0% is not accurate at all, but you really want to tax them more? OK, how much wealth do they have, per person, and how much do you want to take? Everything they own, perhaps?

But hey, you want to raise their taxes, just apply an increase of the same impact on the top 1%, it shouldn't be that hard.

January 22, 2012 at 2:21 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Excellent, well thought out commentary. I also suspect that some of Romney’s reluctance to release his tax filings relates to the fact that he has millions of dollars spread around at least a dozen investment funds run by Bain Capital out of the Cayman Islands.

Romney’s people claim it’s no big deal because the money is in a blind trust and Romney pays taxes on it, but I disagree. Granted, lots of wealthy people do it, but there is just something about a candidate running for President of the United States having millions of dollars in investment funds coming out of another country that bothers me.

January 22, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.
conservative said...

"and what sort of finagling he has done, if any, to avoid or diminish his tax burden."

"Finagling" is such a cheap shot. Does the writer imply cheating by Romney on his taxes? He has no proof, or accusations by anyone else that he has cheated on his taxes. It is his right to legally pay the least taxes possible, Lieberals certainly do. In fact it is Lieberals who dominate the 47% who pay no federal income taxes.

January 22, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.

There's a lot of questionable actions when it comes to tax liability. How do you think a corporation like GE managed to get a negative tax burden? Are you concerned about that, or not? Or is it just the poorest 47%

Well, how much money do you want to take from them then? What percent of their income would be enough for you?

Do you even know what their income is? Do you care?

January 22, 2012 at 6:53 p.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »


Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.