On Friday, Mitt Romney belatedly released just a single additional tax return — his 2011 filing — and a cryptic summary of the previous two decades. The summary featured no details about any individual year. And as for the 2011 return, it was cooked to produce a higher tax rate — and more favorable headlines — for Romney, calling into question what else in this and other returns was manipulated to produce a more favorable appearance.
Here’s ten questions about his taxes that Mitt Romney still needs to answer:
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”?
In fairness, Romney actually did answer question number eight during a 60 Minutes interview that aired last night. Romney argued that it is indeed “fair” for him to pay a lower tax rate on millions in investment income than a middle class worker pays on $50,000 in wages:
Pelley: Now, you made on your investments, personally, about $20 million last year. And you paid 14 percent in federal taxes. That’s the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes $50,000 and paid a higher rate than you did?
Romney: It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35 percent.
Pelley: So you think it is fair?
Romney: Yeah, I think it’s the right way to encourage economic growth, to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work.
Not only does none other than Ronald Reagan disagree with Romney, but his economic argument is also wrong. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy ushered in the weakest job growth in decades. Lower taxes on the wealthy do not lead to job growth. In fact, the opposite appears to be true.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s time for Mitt Romney to come clean about both his tax returns and plans to increase taxes on the middle class while slashing them even further for the wealthiest Americans.