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. dave

    your tax rate and your tax bracket are too different things Joe. Give me your actual AGI and your tax liability?

    January 24, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. brock

    Guys are you really that selfish? He pays that low because instead of leaving his money in his bank and paying 0% in taxes he invests it into the economy and then pays taxes again! Not to mention on top of a (14%) tax rate he gave away almost another 20% in charitable donations. Taxes are required and charitable giving is optional. He gave away more money willingly then he gave away that was required. That is a good man! And yes he cut companies that were unpreductive and invested in companies that were going to succeed and as a whole he created tens of thousands of jobs. Get a grip and stop griping about why successful people dont give everything they have away to you!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • AnthonyG

      So Mitt is the trickle down economics guy, giving lots of money to his church to offset his already reduced tax rate. Rest assured, everything he does in the way of charity is orchestrated by his tax/estate planners to minimize his taxes. Is it legal? Unfortunately Yes. Is it fair? NO!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • brock

      Anthony do you know anything about how taxes and tax shields even work? Does it make any sense to you to pay a $100 in charitable contributions to save yourself from having to pay $15 to taxes? Yes, that's right that doesn't make any sense does it, unless of course you are a charitable individual. And did you not read that more than 80% of americans pay less of a tax rate than Romney? And the fact is that tax rate is to spur investment so money doesnt just sit in the bank but instead is invested to stimulate economic growth.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. BigHwasdemo

    It's his money and he can have it NOW! Obama has got us complaining about what people make, frankly it is not your business what anyone makes or pays in taxes. If there is a crime that is for the IRS and Feds to prosecute and that becomes public record. I don't see anybody posting here with their tax return connection. I will be happy to audit a few returns, let me know where they are online and I will do that. Otherwise mind your own business.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. DEH TOOK ER JOBS

    14%...thank god for charitable donations and writting off all those kids as expenses. Its good to be king.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. AnthonyG

    Mitt Romney is the poster boy for what's wrong with the present tax system which clearly favors those of wealth living off their capital gains. How clever and cunning the wealthy are having the shrinking middle class carry the load.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike C

    After tax income for someone making $50k @15% = $42,500. After tax income for someone making $10,000,000 @15% = $8,500,000. It's not about flat tax or tax rate, it's about the how much actual money is left over. $42k a year for everything needed to survive is a lot different than wondering what color lamborgini to get.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • californiaguy

      so 8.5 million is > 42k ?
      This is profound.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tony

    I don't like Romney but let's be fair. The percentage may be less then most of us pay, but six million in 2 years? I am a computer programmer who makes a nice living and I wont even make six million in my lifetime let alone pay six million in taxes.

    People may not like it but he earned it. And if you hike the tax on the rich, remember they are rich, they'll just compensate themselves less...

    January 24, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Darryl

      Except he pays a HIGHER percent in taxes than most of us, not less.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dave

    more on tax rates and tax brackets. Tax bracket is what you pay on your next dollar.

    Average family making 85,000 per year (3 kids)
    Personal deductions 3800X5 =19000
    State Tax= 5000
    Home Mtg deduction: 10000
    Property taxes: 2500
    donations: 4000
    AGI: 40,500
    Tax due 5,304

    Total tax rate (like they are comparing Romney) 6.2%

    January 24, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. ec

    If you consider the Mormon Church charity...I don't.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. Marty in MA

    I have no problem with his success.

    I just want to know if he earned that money by liquidating companies and firing people, which would make him ethically, a financial predator. Someone has to do it, I guess, but it's not waht my President should have done to become wealthy.

    As my former governor, I felt he wan;t in touch with the people at all, an elitist.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  11. Cindy

    This man is not in the top 1%, he is in the top .0006%. Everytime the average guy gets a small raise, he has to give about 25% back to the government. People like Romeney, the bigger the raise the smaller the percentage given to the government. We are now at a point where rich men like Romney are trying to buy the presidency. I would never in a million years vote for this man.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • AnthonyG

      Lets be fair – Kennedy was rich, Papa Bush was rich, Reagan was rich, Carter was rich, Little Bush was rich, and Obama is getting richer and will get even richer just like Bill Cinton. Look at who runs. They are all wealthy.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I applaud Romney and every other successful person on his accomplishment.
    Instead of criticizing Romney, we need to hold him up as a role model.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. Gerald

    All these people are saying what does it matter. It matters that the potential president should be able to relate to the people he leads. Somebody making that kind of income might be out of touch with the country's poor, working class, and marginalized. He has incentives to cater to his millionaire/billionaire buddies and compete on how many homes they own, while people are foreclosed on every minute of every day.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lovetheusaorleave

    Former Gov. Romney pays in taxes what is required by law for him to pay. He did not write that law but is only following it. The thing that most do not understand he is actually paying taxes twice on this very same money. He paid taxes on income that he made in which allowed him to invest. I wold also say that the 3.5 million or so in taxes he paid this year is more than 95% of the population will ever pay in their lifetimes. I want a President that can lead this country back to the finical strength it once had, not one that continues to be this country in further harm by running up more and more debt.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike C

      He won't be leading you anywhere. Unless you make as much as he does, you're not in HIS club. Don't think he's going to help anyone but himself and his buddies. You're a pawn in his game, and you'll never be anything more than that.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. NoSchaefferism

    The fact that he paid 17% to charity and 13.8% in taxes means that chairty is more important to support than his country. Maybe he only wants to USE this country and the low wages to make millions. Maybe we are just fodder for his money-making machine.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
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