Some prominent Republicans are now adding their voices to the chorus demanding former Massachusetts' governor MItt Romney release his tax returns from 1999 to today. For all his public career, Romney has been able to stonewall or just refuse to let constitutions see where his wealth came from, where he stashes it and whether or not he has been playing fast and loose with tax laws to reduce his tax burden to a level most middle class Americans will never see.
Romney ran for the Senate in Massachusetts; ran and was elected Governor; ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2008; is the presumed nominee for 2012. During all this time, Romney refused to show how rich he is and how that wealth is structured. During the recent primaries, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry forced him to release one year, 2010, and a guess about 2011. He says he will not release anything else. Ironically, it was his father, George Romney, who set the precedent of candidates releasing tax returns when he released 12 years of his. The senior Romney is quoted as saying one or two years are not enough because they could represent a fluke or deception. Now, his son is under increasing pressure to release more of his returns, because the only year he did release has raised more questions than answers.
Newt Gingrich says Romney is the first person to run for president with a Swiss bank account. Romney's 2010 return showed he has millions squirreled away in offshore accounts from Bermuda to the Grand Caymans. The 2010 return showed Romney taxed at a 13.9% rate. The reason, allegedly, is because so much of Romney’s income comes from Bain Capital in the form of "carried interest" from investments. Investments are taxed at 15% instead of a rate over 30%, which is the rate for regular income. Romney's claim for so much carried interest can't be verified with only one year's return.
Other questions have been raised about his wealth. At a time when everyone in America was limited to $2000-$4,000 a year which could be deposited in a traditional I.R.A. account, Romney shows he has over $100 million in his. How is that possible?
In an article in Vanity Fair, Romney's use of offshore accounts raises questions about the source of the funding and whether any of these accounts could e used to allow illegal foreign money to be sheltered in this country. Romney allegedly retired from Bain in 1999. Yet, his 2010 return says Mitt, and his wife's, I.R.A. is still receiving money from a Bain fund set up in the Caymans. This is only allowable if he was still performing services for Bain, something he claims he is not doing. Once again, these questions about legality and the appropriate tax rate cannot be answer by one tax return.
Romney himself is quoted saying, "...I've paid every tax dollar I'm legally required to pay and not one dollar more." We don't know if this is true. Even if it is true, we don't know whether Romney, because of his wealth, is able to avoid paying taxes by using loopholes and grey areas which most American taxpayers would have no access to or ability to take advantage of. If true, this would add to the narrative that he is out of touch with the needs and wants of every day Americans. It would also raise serious questions of whether his is getting a tax rate he does not deserve.
Another question which more tax returns might answer is a criminal one. Romney voted in the senate race in Massachusetts won by Scott Brown. In order to vote, Romney had to have a residence in the state. His tax returns would show where he was taking any property tax deductions and thus where he considered his home. There is speculation; they would show he voted in Massachusetts while claiming his home in New Hampshire or a number of other states. If so, he would be guilty of a crime for illegally voting. We can't determine the answer to this question without more information from his returns.
The Romney campaign complains questions about his wealth, and tax returns, are intended to be a distraction by the Obama campaign so the American people won't notice the sorry state of the nation's economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Romney's tax returns, and what they reveal, are a vital component in the debate about the economy, its strengths and weaknesses and whose vision of the future, Romney's or Obama's, will best represent what average, middle class American's needs are and hopes can be. A Romney who made his wealth exploiting arcane tax laws, grey areas, ethically questionable strategies...a Romney who believes in less financial regulation and more loopholes for the 1% with his kind of wealth...a Romney who refuses to let the American people judge his actions and decisions...a Romney who creates trusts and shell companies and offshore accounts to benefit his children and grandchildren, is not someone who is going to spend much effort preventing Wall Street banks and corporate America from flimming and flamming working Americans even more than they do now.
Romney says he paid every tax dollar legally required and not one dollar more. We don't know if that is true. More importantly, if he was able to use Swiss accounts, Bermuda post office boxes and Grand Cayman structures to shelter and protect his wealth, and reduce his tax bite, every dollar he didn't pay...to support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tax breaks for the 1%...is a dollar you have had to make up for. It's time for him to open the book to a new chapter and come clean so people can know exactly whom it is they might vote for.