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Pinning Romney down on taxes

By Steven Brill
July 19, 2012

The press is missing a trick in continuing to ask Governor Romney only whether he’s going to release more than his most recent tax returns. That allows him to say either yes or no (for now, it’s no), which produces no information. So no news gets made. But there are lots of other ways to get at the Romney tax issue by asking him a variety of different questions, for which even a refusal to comment would be news.

All these questions should begin with something like this: “Governor, we know you feel that releasing additional tax returns will invade your privacy and that of your family and, as you have asserted, allow the Obama campaign to pick through thousands of pages and come up with more distortions and half-truths. So if you are not going to release the returns, could you just tell us this:

Reporters could then choose from among these follow-on questions:

1. In the last 10 years have you ever paid less than 10 percent of your adjusted gross income in federal income taxes? If you don’t know offhand, could you ask your accountant to tell us? (On different days reporters could substitute 7 percent, 5 percent or 2 percent as the benchmark.)

2. Governor, in the last 10 years what is the highest tax rate you have paid? If you don’t know, could you ask your accountant to tell us?

3. Governor, could you ask your accountant simply to release the percent tax of your adjusted gross income you paid in each of the last 10 years? Or could he simply release the two pages of your form 1040 for each year, but to preserve your privacy redact everything on all pages except your signature and line 37 (adjusted gross income) and line 61 (total tax owed); we will calculate the percentages.

4. Governor, what would you guess your average tax rate has been in the last 10 years? If you don’t know, could you ask your accountant to tell us?

5. Governor, have you ever used offshore entities to receive and/or shelter income in a way that has lowered the taxes you have owed the United States?

6. Governor, could you ask your accountant to provide an estimate of how much you and your family will save if all of the Bush tax cuts are extended through 2013?

7. Governor, could you provide us with an estimate of how much the most controversial current tax benefit related to someone in your situation – the treatment as capital gains of carried interest paid to partners in private equity funds for income that was not derived from any capital actually invested – has saved you and your family in the last 10 years?

8. Governor, could you tell us what specific tax benefit or so-called loophole that you have taken advantage of over the last 10 years you would propose to eliminate, and could you ask your accountant to tell us how much you have saved from that benefit?


PHOTO: U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gives a statement to reporters gathered at Middlesex Truck and Coach after he toured the facility during a campaign event in Roxbury, Massachusetts July 19, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Comments
24 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Give it a couple of months. October would be a great time to see these questions pop up.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

I don’t understand. The average American does not feel that they have this level of privacy. It seems that employers, vendors, service providers, government, and just about anybody else can access our personal data, our phone calls, our medical records, our tax information, background checks, etc, etc, etc. Why is this rich dude any different?

Posted by SeaWa | Report as abusive
 

A liar is a liar. Romney is a liar. We need to see his tax returns. 12 years and nothing less. Romney’s rhetoric is all ad hominem. Romney says nothing of substance. A candidate’s tax returns are TOTALLY RELEVANT and should be a prerequisite to filing to run for president. What’s your JOBS SOLUTION, Romney? I haven’t seen you offer any JOBS SOLUTION — if you’ve got it, let’s hear it. Tricky Mitt — what are you hiding? Where you steal people pensions?

Posted by joelrain | Report as abusive
 

Stories I’d like to see, too!

Posted by jmfree | Report as abusive
 

Govenor, for the income tax forms that you have made public, will you be releasing the form in which foreign bank and financial accounts are reported?

Posted by hkrieger | Report as abusive
 

Well put.
I have a hard time with a person who has something to hide.

Posted by msdds1 | Report as abusive
 

Sometimes I really wonder if the entire Media in US has gone absurd. The right questions do not relate to what tax rate Romney has been paying but whether he has been filing his taxes regularly and if he has ever violated any tax laws or got reprimended in a tax audit by the IRS.

As long as he has not been in any federal or state violation regarding taxes, how much he pays should be irrelevant. One cant really blame Romney for complying with a tax code that’s clearly broken, complex and ridiculously incomprehensible for common man. For the pessimists, a guy who has taken benefit of a broken code may well be the right man to fix it.

By the way, I personally believe taxing dividends, interest and capital gains is double taxation. Think about it – I earn a salary and receive net of tax money. Then I control my urges to not spend money on all thats around and save for my future or a better lifestyle. I invest tax paid savings into something (mostly in stockc or bonds that in turn fund investments in the economy) and then Democrats ask me to pay tax on that income at the regular rate – thats just absurd. Plus dividends are paid from after tax corporate profits – why should I pay tax on dividend when all thats happening is that net of tax earnings are coming in from company’s bank accounts into the hands of shareholders. Because of this absurd dividend taxation, companies keep piles of cash and keep doing share buybacks rather than provide investors with a regular flow of dividends. Anyway – enough of logic. This is all stupid politics where apparently logic never prevails.

Posted by VarunGupta82 | Report as abusive
 

All the tax questions being asked in this article misses the point and is more about a political agenda than anything else. Every tax accountant and lawyer advises and works to minimize their clients taxes under the current laws. The only relevant question for Romney is: were all your tax shelters legal?

Whatever tax rate Romney finally paid was legal. If this was rotten, its Congress and the President that should be questioned. Let’s not obfuscate.

Posted by ponder | Report as abusive
 

Governor Romney, did you sign SEC filings stating you were sole owner and shareholder and manager of Bain Capital in 2002? Why would you state on legal documents something that wasn’t true? Who was running Bain if not you? If it took three years to turn it over, while falsifying SEC documents, should we really expect you to be more expeditious with national problems? Looks like you should be more concerned about your pants being on fire, not your hair…..

Posted by sylvan | Report as abusive
 

QUESTION: Did Romney receive amnesty in 2009 for illegal offshore accounts/investments? I suspect he did and therefore is unwilling to let this be known.

I think the issue actually goes beyond what is currently legal for the super rich, to what kind of future laws do we want? Someone who has taken advantage of “legal” means to avoid US taxes and hedge against the US dollar is not someone I want running the country and influencing future legistation in favor of the super rich while those who cannot afford the loopholes pay a larger percentage.

Posted by Northstar77 | Report as abusive
 

*Whatever tax rate Romney finally paid was legal. If this was rotten, its Congress and the President that should be questioned. Let’s not obfuscate.”

WRONG!!
Backhen Romney Ean for governor of MASS, his residency was challagened and it came out where he used a home inUtah and claimed residency paying 50% less taxes on that home. He was caught and had to repay those state tax dollars.
Now on these two years releases he has left out the federal overseas forms. This is willful cover up.

HERE IS A LITTLE QUOTE REGARDING THE OTHER LITTLE TAX FRAUD.

Romney Faces Residency Questions in Massachusetts Race
June 06, 2002

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for governor, faced the first serious obstacle today in his campaign with a report in The Boston Globe that he saved $54,000 in property taxes by claiming his multimillion dollar Utah house as his primary residence.
The report in the Globe today raised questions about whether Mr. Romney meets the residency requirements to be governor of Massachusetts, and it comes amid growing public scrutiny of business leaders and other wealthy people who take advantage of tax loopholes.

The difference, under Utah law, is major. Nonresidents pay taxes on 100 percent of the assessed value of a home. Residents pay taxes on only 55 percent of the assessed value.
Mr. Romney’s house, high on a bluff in the expensive Deer Valley section overlooking Park City, was assessed at $3.8 million in 1999, but he paid taxes on only 55 percent of that valuation, Ms. Kresser said. Normally, it is extremely difficult for nonresidents to have their homes reclassified as primary residences, Ms. Kresser said, and they must show proof like drivers licenses, voter registration and documentation that they live in Utah more than half the year.
”Historically, residency questions don’t work very well in Massachusetts in weakening candidates,” Mr. DiNatale said. ”But this is a character issue and it’s where Romney can be tested.” “

Posted by BATTMAN | Report as abusive
 

Governor, did you apply for and received acceptance into the tax amnesty program back in 2009?

Posted by Global55 | Report as abusive
 

The bottom line is this: If Romney’s not confident enough to show us his tax returns like every other Presidential candidate, that we can’t be confident enough to elect him as our President. We seem to be moving away from full disclosure rather than instituting transparency, as we should be doing.

Two days ago the Republicans voted down a bill that would require releasing to he public the names of any political donors who donated $10,000 or more to a political party or candidate. No honest politician would vote against such an important bill, yet all Republicans voted against it. We have to stop letting politicians get away with this kind of secretive, underhanded abuse. Romney needs to come clean or voters should disqualify him come election day.

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive
 

I think that this is all bulls—. If you want this kind of info lets start with the as-hol- in congress.We need to stop this gotcha crap unless you require all in office to provide this info. BRIANSDAD

Posted by briansdad | Report as abusive
 

VarunGupta82, you have it wrong: Being taxed on income you earn from dividends, etc., is not double taxation. Yes, you paid taxes on the money you used to invest, but the EXTRA income you earn from those investments is income ABOVE what you earned at your job. “Income”=all the money that “comes in” to your possession.

And we should be clear, everyone: The tax system is beyond complex simply because ALL politicians have voted to add loopholes and tax credits over the past 90 years or so. It isn’t Republicans, it isn’t Democrats, it’s ALL politicians. A “Fair Tax” system is idiotic and would lead to absolute economic meltdown in the US and, thus, result in a global depression. But cleaning up the code to take out all the loopholes, and then lowering the steps in the graduated tax, would serve the purpose.

Taxes are VITAL. We WILL pay for whatever services the government provides, whether it’s in the form of a tax or fee. It’s why some municipalities across the country are charging for fire response, accident response, and several other things. When we all pay taxes, the cost of these important programs is spread out among us all to make the costs bearable.

What the problem is, and always will be as long as we keep electing officials based on meaningless “virtues” like anti-abortion or pro-gun or pro-choice or any of the other artificial wedge issues, is how our government uses our taxes. Get rid of those programs that provide no useful public service, that only serve to prop up industries that are simply run inefficiently, and end the massive support for Big Oil, and I think we’d all be a bit happier.

Posted by GreginFL | Report as abusive
 

An accountant’s questions won’t move an electorate.

Based on what we have learned:

Does the extraction of $10′s of millions from Bain to Romney cause Mr. Romney to feel any sense of responsibility for the actions of Bain?

Is global exploitation of labor a solution for a US recovery?

Are Mr. Romney’s campaign donors from Hong Kong and Signapore affiliated with Bain?

When a candidate and his funders prevent the public from being aware of their union, what lies behind this appearance of mutual shame?

What do undisclosed sums from accounts Romney has and/or had in Panama, Luxemberg, Bermuda, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands tell us about his belief in US?

Posted by tartanalcove | Report as abusive
 

An accountant’s questions won’t move an electorate.

Based on what we have learned:

Does the extraction of $10′s of millions from Bain to Romney cause Mr. Romney to feel any sense of responsibility for the actions of Bain?

Is global exploitation of labor a solution for a US recovery?

Are Mr. Romney’s campaign donors from Hong Kong and Signapore affiliated with Bain?

When a candidate and his funders prevent the public from being aware of their union, what lies behind this appearance of mutual shame?

What do undisclosed sums from accounts Romney has and/or had in Panama, Luxemberg, Bermuda, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands tell us about his belief in US?

Posted by tartanalcove | Report as abusive
 

Questions too close to those of an accountant won’t move an electorate. A little more heat may be generated from questions in consideration of what we’ve already learned:

Does Mr. Romney feel, after the extraction of $10′s of millions in compensation from Bain, any sense of responsibility for the actions of Bain?

Is the global exploitation of labor a method for US recovery?

Are Romney’s campaign donors from Hong Kong and Signapore Bain associates?

When candidates and their funders prevent the public from being aware of their union, what lies behind this appearance of mutual shame?

What do undisclosed sums from Romney/Bain accounts in Panama, Luxemberg, Bermuda, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands tell us about how Mr. Romney views the US?

Posted by tartanalcove | Report as abusive
 

Maybe Romney actually had a tax REFUND in a few of those years. Imagine the fallout from that scenario!

Posted by MauiMarco | Report as abusive
 

You state, “The press is missing a trick in continuing to ask Governor Romney only whether he’s going to release more than his most recent tax returns,” which totally misses the “forest for the trees”, as do ALL US news media.

And that is to focus on “where the money goes” from the top 1%.

Let me give you a hint. Check out this article in the UK Guardian today — complete with a chart you have to see to believe.

As I’ve said multiple times before, the answer is simple: “It’s the wealthy, stupid!”, but none of you bright enough to figure that out.

The very least US news media could do was to at least report the truth, but apparently you can’t even manage that.

From the Guardian:

“Wealth doesn’t trickle down – it just floods offshore, new research reveals”

“The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy … ”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/ jul/21/offshore-wealth-global-economy-ta x-havens

Posted by PseudoTurtle | Report as abusive
 

Why weren’t you as concerned about the fast and furious coverup. Much more of a story there. The partisan reporters are so sickening!!

Posted by costag1 | Report as abusive
 

Ponder writes: “Whatever tax rate Romney finally paid was legal. If this was rotten, its Congress and the President that should be questioned.”

You know that Romney is running for President, right? ‘Legal’ is not a high enough test. It’s legal to be a fox. Doesn’t mean you want him guarding the hen house. Romney is running on his record in finance. So he needs to release those financial records. Legally, he doesn’t have to. And legally, he can remain president of the saggy-balls condo association in Park City, instead of a real President. His choice.

Legal. That’s a good one.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

I see you are not going to print my comment (under PseudoTurtle) posted yesterday about the real problem being the wealthy 1% and my link to the UK Guardian.

You people are pathetic. You don’t even qualify as journalists.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive
 

…and what about his birth certificate? There’s something fishy there.

Posted by IamArchangel | Report as abusive
 

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