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Campaign claims Romney paid 14.1 percent tax rate in 2011

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, September 21, 2012 14:35 EDT
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stands on an airport runway. Photo: AFP.
 
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Update: Returns reveal Romney’s foreign holdings

The Romney campaign said Friday that Mitt and Ann Romney paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent in 2011, and promised to published the complete return online by 3 p.m. eastern.

A post to the campaign’s website explained that the rate would have been much lower had Romney not chosen to limit his deductions from their charitable giving. The campaign claimed Romney donated more than $4 million to charitable groups — about 30 percent of his income — but only deducted $2.25 million.

“The Romneys’ generous charitable donations in 2011 would have significantly reduced their tax obligation for the year,” a Romney financial adviser explained on the campaign’s website. “The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the Governor’s statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.”

For the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign to claim he actually over-paid on his taxes last year represents a striking about-face for Romney, who told supporters in July: “I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president.”

Interestingly, Romney also said in January that his 2011 tax rate would be about 15.4 percent: a full 1.3 percent more than what he now claims to have actually shelled out.

A summary of Romney’s 20-year tax history was also said to be included in Friday’s planned document drop. The campaign said the summary, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, would show that Romney paid an effective tax rate of 20.2 percent. Tax returns to support that claim, however, were not to be included in the release.

Romney has faced significant criticism throughout the presidential campaign for refusing to release his tax returns. Presidential candidates have traditionally released at least a decade of details on their financial history, although Romney’s father went even further by releasing 12 years worth.

Before Friday, the younger Romney had only released one tax return, revealing that he has holdings in foreign corporations and paid a tax rate of just 13.9 percent in 2010 — a rate that’s actually lower than billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who paid 17.4 percent in 2011. Buffett supports President Barack Obama, who’s proposed raising tax rates on wealthy Americans to levels that are more equitable with people in the poor and middle classes.

Responding to criticism over his tax returns at a rally in South Carolina last month, Romney said he felt the American public’s “fascination” with his refusal to disclose his financial history is “very small minded compared to the broad issues that we face.” Romney went on to insist that he paid “at least 13 percent” in taxes every year, adding: “If you add in addition the amount that goes to charity [at the Mormon church], well, the number gets well above 20 percent.”

Update: Returns reveal Romney’s foreign holdings

In tax return documents regarding “information return by a shareholder of a passive foreign investment company,” Mitt Romney’s foreign holdings are laid bare. Pages 42-275 of their 379-page tax return shows that the Ann & Mitt Romney 1995 Family Trust has extensive foreign holdings across the globe, and paid $83,853 in foreign taxes last year.

Documents showed that most of Romney’s foreign investments in 2011 were in the Cayman Islands, the Netherlands and Ireland, all of which are notorious tax shelters. Interestingly, all of those countries are commonly used as part of a tax evasion scheme known to investors as the “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich,” explained by a slightly complicated infographic published last April by The New York Times.

It’s not clear if that’s what Romney’s trust is doing as well, although the holdings suggest it is possible. The trust also had investments in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Australia and Bermuda. The Romneys insist their money is held in a blind trust that they have no control over. However, the trustee Romney appointed to run his accounts is his personal lawyer and longtime friend.

Campaigning against the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in 1994, Romney criticized the senator for pointing to his own blind trust when his investments came under rhetorical fire. “The blind trust is an age old ruse,” Romney said. “Which is to say, you can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do. You give a blind trust rules.”

Read Ann and Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax return, embedded below…

Mitt Romney’s 2011 Tax Return

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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