Tax Break

Tax returns as campaign fodder

April 25, 2012

Tax returns are playing a role in Senate campaigns this year as candidates reveal intimate, sometimes awkward financial details.

In Massachusetts, Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Elizabeth Warren put herself in an awkward position when she revealed last week that she did not pay the higher of  two state income tax rates. Massachusetts allows residents to voluntarily pay 5.85 percent or the state’s standard 5.3 percent rate.

Warren has been a supporter of the Buffett Rule, which calls for a minimum tax for high-income earners, named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett who backs the rule being promoted by President Barack Obama.

Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown quickly hammered Warren as hypocritical for backing the Buffett Rule while turning down an opportunity to pay more taxes herself. Brown on Tuesday said he’s releasing six years worth of tax returns. Warren said she will release four years.

Connecticut candidates vying for retiring independent Senator Joe Lieberman’s seat have split on whether to release their tax returns. Democratic Representative Chris Murphy and former Republican Representative Chris Shays are releasing their returns. Republican Linda McMahon, who was CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and a Senate candidate in 2010, is not releasing a tax return. The Greenwich Times reported in March that McMahon and her husband Vince have an investment portfolio of between $92 million and $355 million.

Republican primary voters in Indiana have gotten conflicting messages about personal tax returns. Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar bought commercials pointing out an error on his challenger’s tax return. Lugar is facing a tough primary challenge from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who was attacked in the ad over claiming a homestead tax deduction. But the claim turned out to be a mistake by county tax collectors. Mourdock was quick to counter attack with an ad painting Lugar as desperate.

Voters go to the polls on May 8.

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