Romney’s tax release sparks more questions
DENVER – Looking to shift the focus away from his videotaped “47 percent” comment, Mitt Romney released his full 2011 tax return on Friday.
But the information provided by the campaign, which shows that Romney paid $1.95 million in taxes on his 2011 investment income of $13.7 million — a rate of 14.1 percent, only gave more illumination to the issues of wealth and class that have been dogging Romney all summer.
It fulfills a campaign promise to release two full years of tax returns — Romney had already released his 2010 returns.
But for Romney’s actual tax rate to align with another campaign statement, a promise that he’s never paid less than 13 percent in taxes, took some creative accounting.
According to the return, Romney and his wife, Ann, donated about $4 million to charity in 2011, but claimed only $2.25 million as a deduction. Had they taken the full deduction, the overall tax rate would have come in below 13 percent.
While the disclosure does fulfill Romney’s promise to release two years of tax returns and gives Americans a glimpse of the candidate’s charitable giving, it also sharpens the contrast between a presidential hopeful who is very much part of the nation’s wealthiest one percent and the millions of Americans who are struggling to get by — and it comes just days after the video of Romney telling rich donors that “47 percent” of the country doesn’t pay taxes, depend on government and refuse to take responsibility for their own lives.
It also opens up Romney’s tax return — which comes in at 378 pages — to more dissection.
“Perhaps the Romney camp thought that any news would serve to change the subject from the 47 percent video gaffe. But color me exceptionally dubious that this announcement will help Romney turn the corner,” political analyst Eric Sondermann told FOX31 Denver Friday night.
“Whatever political blood Mitt Romney had let on the issue of tax returns has long since been drained. This limited release of information, while put out on a slow Friday afternoon, will only serve to revive the issue and prompt new calls to see the actual tax returns. Romney needs a change of atmospherics and a change of subject. But this isn’t it.”
Earlier this summer, after Romney first stated that he’s always paid more than 13 percent, University of Colorado professor Victor Fleischer, a tax law expert, asked: “13 percent of what?”
Fleischer speculated to FOX31 Denver that Romney may have paid 13 percent on his taxable income but avoided paying taxes on much of his investment dividends by deftly using tax loopholes.
“Mitt Romney has now released more than 1,200 pages of tax returns, giving voters an incredibly detailed look at his finances,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, in a statement released by the campaign Friday afternoon shortly after the tax returns were posted on the Romney website.
“Now that the most recent tax return has been released, it’s time to get back to discussing the issues that voters care about. While President Obama and Democrats will try to distract voters, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are focused on fixing the economy, getting Americans back to work and ensuring a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
But Romney’s effort to quiet the calls for him to release more tax returns hasn’t silenced those who, even after Friday’s release of the 2011 return, are still questioning what he’s hiding from previous years.
Seeking to lay to rest charges from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who alleged that Romney paid no taxes in the past, the campaign released a letter from Romney’s accountants stating that the lowest annual effective rate he paid was 13.6 percent between 1988 and 2009.
Over that period, his average federal tax rate was 20.2 percent, the accountants said.
But Reid, after watching Romney drop the 2011 tax return in his own home state of Nevada Friday, issued a snide statement.
“The information released today reveals that Mitt Romney manipulated one of the only two years of tax returns he’s seen fit to show the American people — and then only to ‘conform’ with his public statements,” Reid said. “That raises the question: what else in those returns has Romney manipulated?”