I'm not sure if the Romney campaign actually thought continuing to ask questions about his tax returns was going to distract from the dismal news cycle he's had for the last week or two, and is somehow better than talking about his "47 percent" remarks at that fundraiser, but here we go with a Friday news dump and the release of his 2011 returns.
As David Cay Johnston pointed out on Ed Schultz's show this Friday evening, the poorly worded press release just leaves more questions unanswered than answered and the 14.1 percent rate he paid could easily be amended down later if he fails to win his bid for the presidency.
Here's more from Think Progress on the subject -- 10 Questions Romney Should Answer About His Taxes:
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?
Follow the link above to read the rest. Rough transcript of Johnston's interview with Schultz, who had some similar questions, below the fold.
SCHULTZ: When you see the tax return of Mitt Romney 2011, what jumps out at you? What did they do? How did he get 14%?
JOHNSTON: Well, he's at 14% because he mostly has this capital income and we tax people who are wealthy on the income from their money less than we do people who work. what's interesting here is Romney said in an interview with ABC that if he paid more than the minimum tax, a dollar more than the minimum tax the law requires, it would make him unqualified to be president.
Well, he paid somewhere in the order of between $265 and $600,000 more tax than necessary, little as his tax bill was, because he didn't, at least for the moment, deduct the full $4 million of charitable contribution. So by his own standard, he's made himself unqualified to be president. I think it's a silly standard but he said it.
SCHULTZ: Isn't this a classic example, his tax return, how the wealthiest Americans really have it pretty damn good in this country?
JOHNSTON: Boy, I would love to be paying a 14% tax rate. He also did something else where, you know, Romney should be trying to shut this down every way he can Ed. And you have to wonder about his judgment in all of this because that's the only test we have for somebody running for president is judgment, and how he's handled this. In the statement they put out about the 20 years of returns they, use the verb "owed."
They owed taxes. They didn't use the word paid, meaning paid in the year, in each individual year. That leaves open the possibility that they filed an amended return in a later year, that they were audited and were required to pay higher taxes.
And so I wrote the campaign and I asked them, well what about this, and what I got back was an answer that was actually unresponsive to this. So now he's opened up this new question. Well, were there in fact big audits of you at some point? He said he's been audited. Did you make a big payment because you underpaid? Did you ever pay penalties? All these questions are now back on the table because they didn't carefully write the statement that they issued or they wrote it the way they did because they have to.
SCHULT: And there are questions and also some maneuverability that he can do with this tax return of 2011. Isn't it possible for Romney that he can deduct an unclaimed amount in future years? For instance, if he doesn't get elected president, he can go back and say you know what, I'm going to take the full deduction instead of the $2.2 million on the $4 million that I donated? What about that?
JOHNSTON: Exactly right Ed. Mitt and Ann Romney have three years to amend their return, and if he's not elected president, I'm sure they will file an amended return and take the full amount. And it will knock his tax rate down, you have to do some technical work to figure out exactly what it is, as low as about 9.6% and as high as 12.2%, but certainly well below the level that he's talked about and well below the level that anybody working who makes even $50-60 thousand a year pays as a share of their income.
SCHULTZ: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent out a tweet on Romney's taxes earlier today. He said "When will the American people see the returns he filed before he was running for president?" What do you think about that comment? Are you curious about his tax returns before he said he was going to run for president? The way the market went in 2008 and 2009, there might be a chance that Romney didn't pay any tax.
JOHNSTON: Um, yes. They assert in there, that's why that word "owed" is important, that they owed taxes, as opposed to "paid." They do say they're current, whatever their taxes are. You know, I was probably the first person to call on Romney to release his returns, and it's getting close to a year ago now, and hee hasn't done this. Clearly there's something in there, even if it's something that's legal, that they know would just be fatal to his campaign. And in all of this it's just astonishing to watch how he has mishandled this. Here's a guy who says I'm this brilliant businessman. I'm proud of all this money that I made and look at all these things I did and he can't seem to run a campaign where he can talk about the only issue that can get him elected, which is that the economy hasn't improved as fast as some Americans would like. That's a really serious flaw on his part as CEO of the Romney campaign. You know, that's not a job he's handling well.