Defying 50 years of precedent set by presidential candidates from both parties, Mitt Romney has so far refused to release his income tax returns, despite calls from the other GOP candidates to do so. Yesterday, he admitted that his effective tax rate is probably about 15 percent — much lower than that of many middle-class families — and said he will probably release his returns in April if he wins the nomination, but only for 2011, which could allow him to hide any embarrassing tax shelters or income sources from previous years.
Now it seems even Romney’s supporters are uncomfortable with his evasiveness on his tax returns. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), one of Romney’s most prominent endorsers who has campaigned with the GOP hopeful on the trail, urged Romney to release his tax returns for several years back:
CHRISTIE: First of all, listen, the way I’ve conducted myself in public life all a long is I’ve released all of my tax returns. And I did it during the campaign. I went back a number of years and released my tax returns. And I released them every year after I filed them, right after I filed them to the public of New Jersey so they can see everything, and I think that’s the right way to go and that’s what I would tell governor to do.
He says he’s going to release them in April, and I hope he does. The fact of the matter is that’s what I would advise him to do…That’s the way I’ve conducted myself in public over time, and I were asked by governor Romney, that’s what I would urge him to do as well.
It’s worth noting that Romney’s father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg News notes that it’s understandable why Romney is reluctant to release his returns: “Romney, one of the richest men to seek the presidency, probably benefits from a controversial tax break that allows him to pay a lower overall rate than do millions of American wage-earners.”