Pinning Romney down on taxes
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