January 24th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Romney tax release lights up debate on wealth inequality

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made $42.7 million over the past two years and paid $6.2 million in taxes, newly released documents show.

Romney and his wife, Ann, filed a joint 1040 reporting $21.7 million in 2010 income and $3 million in federal taxes. They also said their 2011 income was $21 million and tax bill was $3.2 million. Over the two years, Romney's effective tax rate – the percentage of his income that he owed in federal income taxes - was just under 14%.

Nevertheless, and contrary to popular perception, Romney's effective federal income tax rate is still above that of many Americans – 80% of whom have an effective rate below 15%. That tax rate is higher when other federal taxes - such as the payroll tax - are included.

And there's nothing that gets people revved up like peering into someone else's taxes to learn more about their wealth, especially when they're running for office. So you know that people were abuzz this morning trying to dissect it all, that is, if they could wrap their heads around it.

It appears Romney and his campaign knew that too, and expected the onslaught. If you did a search on Twitter for "Romney Taxes" "Romney Tax Returns" or "Romney" you saw an interesting promoted tweet, meaning someone paid for that tweet to show up at the top of the heap.

And judging by the tweet, Romney's camp must have thought, if people are going to be searching around, we ought to offer a message.

For the most part, the conversation online seemed more focused on what Romney's overall taxes show about America, rather than the candidate himself.

Rick Newman, the chief business correspondent for US News & World Report, tweeted a statistic that seemed to characterize what others were thinking.

A majority of the comments we saw online showed that many folks, while they may have been a bit revolted by the mass amount of money Romney makes, found that more of the problem was our tax code or a major gap divide between the wealthy and middle class.

Others bemoaned the general fact that Romney didn't have to pay more, considering what they pay, even if it is all part of the current rules.

But others thought that there wasn't any massive damage done by Romney releasing his tax returns, because they showed he also gave money to those who needed it, and simply followed our current rules.

Some joked the release was well-timed because it came when people were paying more attention to Oscar nominations.

But for others, there was also a continuing sentiment of wondering why we get all excited about these tax releases anyway.

For some, knowing where the politics and money collide along the campaign trail was the more important monetary detail they'd prefer to learn.

What do you think? Does it still matter that we see candidate tax returns? And if so, what is your reaction to Romney's release. Let us know in the comments below.

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Filed under: Economy • Mitt Romney • Politics • Twitter
soundoff (733 Responses)
  1. don smith

    just keep another out of touch politician religious zealot out of the white house PLEASE!!! Really what do we need this guy for, how can he relate to the people that elected him he cant...face it .. washington is on an island isolateed and aloof they only care when election time comes around and you know what TALK IS CHEAP.. Republicans...no thank you George Bush after youre 8 years no thank you..

    January 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. N Williams

    Since charitable donations (if large enough percentage of one's income) are tax deductible and often done only to lower one's tax bill, I am not that impressed with how much anyone donates to charity. If you look at the income/donations/taxes paid pie charts of President Obama's, Newt's, and Romney's, the slice of pie for taxes and donations together look remarkably the same. One offsets the other. And that begs the question anyway...should we admire people more who pay more taxes? EVERYONE is suffering from the budget cutbacks at the local, state, and federal level. Our country is floundering in debt and needs more money coming in so the draconian budget slashes will stop undermining our country's future...HELLO?? I just wish I again HAD money that I could donate to charity. This whole discussion and topic is irrelevant to most of the 99% who are scrambling to just keep going. The 1% were lucky and most worked hard. I don't need them to entertain me. Could we get some jobs down here?? The fact is...without the blue collar workers, our country would screech to a halt. The physical and even social infrastructure would collapse. WE NEED EACH OTHER AND WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER! Oh, did I mention mutual respect and dignity for all as well? What’s that? You calling me a fool? You are correct! I am The Fool on the Hill. (As in The Beatles…NOT the Capital.) Just Imagine.

    January 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Barry G.

      I recall attending a lecture in graduate schooo, where a policy professor spoke about a study, which concluded that businesses would not give the charitable donations they give, if it were not for the tax deductions.

      I apologize for not recalling the name of the study, the authors or the source.

      January 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alice

    Wouldn't you rather you only had to give 15% of your money to the government through taxes and be able to give 17% to the charities directly. If you gave the extra 17% to the government, I doubt the same percentage would have been directed to the same needy organizations.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jeff Young

    The tax rate on capital gains is 15%. If Romney invested in the stock market a few years ago, and picked the right stocks, he could sell his investment, double his money and use 15% of his gain to pay his taxes. However, the corporate tax rate is 35%, so guess where 35% of Romney's "pre-tax" profit went. In other words, Romney's tax rate is really 44.75% instead of the 15% that everybody is complaining about. Let's say you are a small investor, and you made $10,000 on the stock market. You pay 15% ($1,500) tax and end up with $8,500 you can put in the bank, For a while, you owned a share of the company, and the value of the company grew while you were an owner. The value of your share of the company went from $10,000 to $25,384, and that $15,384 increase in value was taxed at 35% ($5,384) so the profit that was left was $10,000. The effective tax rate 44.75% = ($1,500 + $5,384) / $15,384.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bonecrusher

    Without a job, Romney made more in one day than the average American family makes in a year. I don't begrudge him that. I envy him. But he is able to do this while the economy is in the dumps and, according to him, while the Obama presidency has been an abysmal failure. How can he possibly identify with the plight of the many who are suffering from joblessness and the housing problem. The fact that he can't is evidenced by his comments that all the foreclosures and bankruptcies should be allowed to run their course. His suggestion is not surprising. Guess what segment of our society stands to gain the most from that happening–those with enough capital to swoop and buy up everything. This is what happened after the depression. The old bromide applies, "The rich get richer."

    January 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. anon

    Bottom line is 42 million dollars is too much money for one person to have. Who cares how hard he worked? No amount of hard work justifies 42 million dollars. Doctors and lawyers put in a lot of hours too. Don't think too many of them make 21 million in one year. What person needs THAT MUCH MONEY. That's the bottom line. American dream is dead. Unless you pick a career in investing, medicine, law or have the luck to become a famous singer or actor, than you'll wind up working you're fingers to the bone for little money. So pick a job that makes you happy and a job where you have to work hard and expect to always worry if you have enough money to make ends meet.

    January 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • TXJack

      Why are you jealous that he made that kind of money..
      I’m not going to vote for Romney or Obama.
      But if Romney was ½ smart he would use that business sense to bring the US out of debt.
      Certainly Obama is not doing it, He is just getting more loans from China a thing the Clinton started.
      Would you say the say thing about too much money if Bill Gates was running form President?

      January 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. LibsLieAlways

    Obama's friends paid less............like Warren Buffet the hypocrit, his Berkshire Hathaway owes over a billion in back taxes yet he whines he does not pay enough typical liberal double speak give him another medal Obama you hypocrit lying ass lawyer.......

    January 25, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Barry G.

    At what point did “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” become a justification for greed, unethical business dealings, selfishness, and reckless and irresponsible dealings in business?

    I must have missed something.

    Of course I direct this question to the vast majority of our politicians (both parties).

    January 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Barry G.

    Leading economists are convinced that the economic woes the U.S. is having now are the result of irresponsible fiscal policies during the past twenty to thirty years.

    Should we not blame both parties for this?

    Although it’s easy to blame one party or the other, and although it makes us feel better, are our assertions true and fair?

    Let’s not let the politicians divide and conquer us. Both parties bear responsibility for what has happened.

    Don’t let them convince you otherwise!

    January 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • kayscullion

      THANK YOU! I'm so glad someone is using their common sense! It is clearly NOT just Obama's fault that the economy is the way it is. If only people would pull the wool they have slapped over their eyes, they would see that its partisan ship on both sides is killing the economy and destroying the greatest country, The United States of America. If both sides could come together and stop making their own private agenda their top priority and put America first like they are supposed to in the first place, the plight that America is in now wouldn't be as it is, if they would stop putting their blinders on and really see that America needs them. The Parties (Republican and Democrat) are all for the glory and not for the actual policies. They are no longer working for the people, they are working for their own interests. Americas government is no longer the government other countries look up to, they look down on it, laugh in its face.

      So everyone can give a big round of applause to partisan ship and too much power.

      January 26, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barry G.

      Well said, Kay.

      And thank you for your kind note.

      –Barry

      January 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sim namore

    I learned today that MR makes my annual salary in a little over a day. I bet he doesn't work as hard as I do. He kept large amounts (apparently) in Swiss accts, and kept it there until the very last legal moment. Here's the thing: you cannot pull in 20 million a year without getting blood on your hands–I wonder if he can get his camel through the eye of a needle... No? Then off to hell with ya God boy.

    January 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Barry G.

    And Jesus said, "It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

    January 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Pepa

    I get it now. He/she/it is tynrig to find fault with an argument before tynrig to understand it. Transporter/Anonymous/Moderator is a troll!

    February 11, 2012 at 7:02 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Nour

    I want to be part of Mitt's mlddie class. It's good to be unemployed, apparently.I've been doing it all wrong, I guess. Damn.

    February 14, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Matt B

    CNN has once again failed to report useful stats on how much these presidential nominees have given to charity or non-profit organizations. I think everyone should know how much these candidates give back to their communities, churches and miscellaneous non-profit entities. Income and taxes hardly show the whole story. Once again, modern media has failed to report objectively and instead reports based on its own agenda. CNN is interpreting the news instead of reporting it. Without any integrity or respect, they seek to undermine fact, and implement opinion as fact. CNN has turned into an entertainment program based on socialist and anti-constitutional principles. Their goal: To influence and sway the public according to what CNN thinks you should know. Instead of the whole story, you get only what they choose to tell you. Relate it to this; If you were a doctor, would you let a child inform your patients? Absolutely not! Individuals seeking truth must turn to individual study and research.. do not become victim to the media and their "newspeak" (1984) language. CNN could do much better.. wouldn't you agree?

    This concept; the “Media is the 4th Branch of Government" is becoming more relevant today than ever. Its persuasive power over public opinion has become too commonplace. Although the freedom of speech is crucial to American ideals–is the American individual succumbing to the biased and prejudiced interpretation of journalists? Since when did the basic journalist become the expert in all areas of profession, knowledge, wisdom and common sense? How is it that their opinion takes priority and trumps educated background voices with specialized professions? Since when did journalists have the right to create news instead of report it? The power of the journalist has increased exponentially over the past decade, and the responsibility of that power is being abused. Their arguments ranging from astrophysics to political policy is none other than innocent ignorance. It is without degree, merit or integrity. So why do we listen to them? Media is dependent on viewers; their purpose is to inform but also to entertain! If you were a doctor, would you let your child inform your patients? Absolutely Not! A journalist degree is not a medical, law, business, science or any other degree. It is essential that you as an individual research and educate yourself from accredited sources pertaining to the relevant issues in your life. Don’t get me wrong, journalism is essential to our world today – one of the most important resources and protections set up by our founding fathers. I only advocate that individuals do not rely solely on the opinions of others, and instead, find their own. For that was the true intent of our nation’s founding fathers.

    I fear the democratic party has gone too far, and has turned into the socialist party of 1944.. for if we all remember history, Norman Mattoon Thomas (Then leading socialist party presidential candidate) said in this speech: "The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of 'Liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened... I no longer need to run as a Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Party, the Democratic Party has adopted our platform.

    I find this becoming more of a reality every day.. something to think about.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Matt B

    CNN has once again failed to report useful stats on how much these presidential nominees have given to charity or non-profit organizations. I think everyone should know how much these candidates give back to their communities, churches and miscellaneous non-profit entities. Income and taxes hardly show the whole story. Once again, modern media has failed to report objectively and instead reports based on its own agenda. CNN is interpreting the news instead of reporting it. Without any integrity or respect, they seek to undermine fact, and implement opinion as fact. CNN has turned into an entertainment program based on socialist and anti-constitutional principles. Their goal: To influence and sway the public according to what CNN thinks you should know. Instead of the whole story, you get only what they choose to tell you. Relate it to this; If you were a doctor, would you let a child inform your patients? Absolutely not! Individuals seeking truth must turn to individual study and research.. do not become victim to the media and their "newspeak" (1984) language. CNN could do much better.. wouldn't you agree?

    I fear the democratic party has gone too far, and has turned into the socialist party of 1944.. for if we all remember history, Norman Mattoon Thomas (Then leading socialist party presidential candidate) said in this speech: "The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of 'Liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened... I no longer need to run as a Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Party, the Democratic Party has adopted our platform."

    I find this becoming more of a reality every day.. something to think about.

    February 16, 2012 at 5:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
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