Our guest blogger is Seth Hanlon, Director of Fiscal Reform at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
On Friday afternoon, the Romney campaign released the candidate’s 2011 tax return, which showed that he paid a tax rate of approximately 14 percent on more than $13 million of reported income. The campaign also disclosed that Romney voluntarily forfeited about $1.8 million in charitable deductions to inflate the tax rate he would have to disclose to the public. The campaign continues to refuse to release returns prior to 2010, flunking an accepted standard of transparency, first established by Mitt’s father George Romney, of releasing multiple years’ returns.
In a blog post, Romney’s lawyer and the trustee of his “blind trust” said, “After you have reviewed all of the newly-posted documents, you may have further questions.” Yes, we do. Lots.
Here are 10 unanswered questions about Romney’s taxes:
1. After the election, when the subject of your tax returns is outside of the public glare, will you file an amended tax return to claim your full deduction of charitable contributions? Was the tax rate you reported for other years similarly manipulated?
2. Why was your 2011 income $7 million lower than you estimated it to be in January? How does someone overestimate their income by $7 million?
3. Financial disclosures show that you have as much as $82 million in your tax-deferred Individual Retirement Account, despite the fact that tax rules limited contributions into such accounts to $30,000 per year. Did you lowball the value of the assets you put into your IRA, as tax experts suspect? And did you do the same with gifts into your sons’ trusts?
4. What was the purpose of your Swiss bank account and the myriad offshore entities shown on your return, based in countries like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, if not to avoid taxes?
5. Can you explain what one tax expert has called a “mysterious one-time infusion of foreign tax credits” in 2008?
6. You have not disclosed any foreign bank account reports (FBARs). Did you file all FBARs on all of your offshore accounts with the Treasury Department by the legal deadlines each year?
7. You claim to have paid an average tax rate of 20 percent over the last 20 years based on a flawed calculation. What was your real tax rate?
8. Your 14 percent tax rate –- not to mention the approximately 10 percent tax rate you would have paid had you not inflated it — is less than what many middle-class Americans pay. And you paid just 0.2% of your income in payroll taxes, while most Americans pay about 15%. Do you think that is fair?
9. Your tax returns show that the Marriott Corporation paid you $260,390 in directors’ fees in 2011. When you were the company’s audit committee chair in the 1990s, were you aware that the company was abusing a notorious illegal tax shelter?
10. You say you’ve made a “commitment to the public” that your tax rate should not be below 13 percent. If you believe that the richest Americans shouldn’t be paying an exceptionally low tax rate, why don’t you support President Obama’s “Buffett Rule”?
Romney’s lack of transparency on his tax returns is especially troubling given that he is similarly evasive on the details of his tax policies. From what we know about his tax plan, Romney would shower massive tax breaks on the wealthiest Americans, which means that it can only adds up with a major middle-class tax hike. How much will Romney raise your taxes in order to cut taxes for people like him? That’s the biggest unanswered question of all.