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.

[tweet https://twitter.com/rickjnewman/status/161820377935396866%5D

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.

[tweet https://twitter.com/edwardvirtually/status/161824789172977665%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/marclamonthill/status/161820174784282624%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/marclamonthill/status/161821094037295104%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/NickKristof/status/161781523740229632%5D

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.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Cephster/status/161824859045900289%5D

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.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Toni_TWG/status/161824885176401922%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/jrawlinsisu/status/161823455078125569%5D

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

[tweet https://twitter.com/AndrewCDaniel/status/161823761753063426%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/joe_hill/status/161812094528913408%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/carlimck/status/161819689947901952%5D

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

[tweet https://twitter.com/g2slade/status/161815915418234881%5D

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

[tweet https://twitter.com/betthearm/status/161812408099287040%5D

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.

Post by:
Filed under: Economy • Mitt Romney • Politics • Twitter
soundoff (733 Responses)
  1. nick

    When did the country decide capitalism the way should we as a democracy decide this often seems like capitalism on the dowmward spiral

    January 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW

      The point you were trying to make was lost in the attempt to read your so-called sentence.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Capitalism made this country great... it was government's involvement and growth that have put us on a downward spiral.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disovery

      So I pay 35% taxes and Romney on play 14%. how is this fair?

      January 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      Made it great or wad it the imperialist quest and military modernization of last century that made us great and by great for whom do you speak of in other countries you don't have to worry about preexisting conditions for medical some get 3-8 weeks paid vacation a year i real worker lucky to get a week after 2 years of 50 hour weeks .jw why is it that you can't understand normal thinking

      January 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Saboth

    If you've ever worked with a Non-profit, you know rich people give insane amounts of money to charity. Because of the goodness in their hearts? Hell no...so they can lower their taxes.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • jobenvy

      That's so stupid it made me double over. Thanks for the laugh it made my day!

      January 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Yeah, because rich people would much rather give away a million dollars rather than pay $350,000 to keep it. Duh.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • WWRRD

      No, It makes complete sense. When you give to Charity you know exactly what you are supporting, how the money is used and who benefits. The recipients if most charities are quite grateful for the assistance that they receive knowing full well that someone actually cares about them.

      In the government money is redistributed based on lobbyists and activists pursuing their own agendas. The money is used wastefully with lots going to salaries of people that works for the HUD, and other government agencies. Far less ever goes to directly help the intended person. In the end the recipients feel like they are owed something because it 's the government doing the helping.

      There's a big difference. I'm glad Romney gave more to Charity than he paid in taxes. Tells me something about his character. He actually cares.

      Good republicans know that someone needs to help the poor. If we don't do it through charity, than the government has to do it. A republican that doesn't give to charity and doesn't want the government to help the less fortunate is just a heartless money -grubber.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm

      And the Mormon church tells their sheep what percentage they need to donate to their "church". It is not left up to the sheep to decide.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 4F8

    ... where is the $100 million Mitt Romney transferred to his sons (his tax safe havens), and didn't pay any gift tax on it ?

    And why are tax schemes of/and the likes of hedge-fund managers, such as Romney, being exempted to pay gift tax, whereas Joe the plumber does have to pay it when "giving" money to his kids ?

    January 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Evidence? I can't find any... where are you getting this?

      January 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • balls

      tom, watch the video. use your brain. simple

      January 24, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    It is amusing how the media loves to paint a different picture, by claiming things that are highly questionable. To say 80% paid as little or less than Romney, doesn't address such issues, as 47% of Americans pay NO taxes. Why is that? Why should any citizen pay zero taxes?

    Don't try and condone how little a multi millionaire pays.......with a silly argument. Instead ask why so many people pay NO taxes, and yet Obama wants to claim the rich don't pay ENOUGH? This whole thing is just deception, and lies, and the entire tax code is a huge problem, and all of the people KNOW it is a real problem.

    No citizen of this country should pay zero taxes. Not one. Everyone should have to have some skin in the game of supporting this country, eve if that is a minimum tax of $50.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • scarshapedstar

      "47% of Americans pay NO taxes"

      How the hell does a poor person avoid paying sales tax? Do you realize what you're saying?

      January 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • jnpa

      I am retired drawing a retirement pension and social security. I pay federal taxes. My marginal tax rate for 2011 taxes is 15%. I do not understand how 47% do not pay taxes.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tom

    Im a die hard democrat but even I think its ridiculous to make how much he earned an issue. The man made his own money, it wasnt handed to him. We are so quick to penalize folks for makin it in this country. If he is getting rich off of outdated riculous tax codes that favor the rich, then whoe fault is that.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • sullivan

      What are your thought on parking money overseas in the Caymans and Swiss accounts? You think he is paying taxes on that?

      January 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • scarshapedstar

      "If he is getting rich off of outdated riculous tax codes that favor the rich, then whoe fault is that."

      It's the fault of the rich people who write our laws and rig our elections. Florida 2000, anyone?

      January 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Robert

    Romney paid income tax = 1,000 average American families. So, he paid too little??????? What are we, communists?

    January 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hangtownie

    To me it seems insane that earned income is taxed so much higher than unearned income. Unearned is exactly that. If your just sitting on a huge pile of money you should be taxed much higher than somebody who has to work everyday just to have food and shelter. INSANE tax code that should be fixed STAT.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • dud

      People who think like you are the problem. Why when they are risking their money should they pay a higher tax. If this was the way it was we wouldn't have people investing money. You aren't at risk of losing your "earned" money like someone is investing. If you take away the benefits of investing it will go away and then your "earned" income opportunities will go away.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawduck

      First of all, that money is already taxed before it touches Mitt's hands. It's invested. In businesses. Those businesses pay taxes on the money that they make. In reality, that product (the product created by the business for profit) is taxed at closer to a 43% rate. To say that the rate should be higher is to say that the government should get about HALF of the work that businesses do. HALF?

      Second, investors aren't "sitting" on that money. They carefully determine which businesses or enterprises are worth their money (which has no doubt been earned through blood, sweat, and tears). Then invest that hard-earned money and hope that they've chosen wisely. They risk every dime that they invest. If the investment fails, they could lose everything.

      So the accusations you make are either disingenuous (doubt it) or ignorant (bingo). The problem is that people who think like you (which is to say that they don't think) or who pretend to think like you (which is to say that they are liars) are actually making decisions in government. In the end, these people should not be thinking about what I do with my money. It's mine. Not yours.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sullivan

    The tax rate is one thing, Romney has no control over that. Putting money overseas is a concern to me. Is he paying taxes on the overseas money?

    January 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      Yeah. Sure he is. In some fantasy land.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rick

    Vote for him or any other Republican and he will be paying ZERO.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawduck

      No republican or elected official that I know of thinks that anybody's tax rate should be zero. They're smart enough to know that government (limited) serves a purpose and must be supported by the people.

      But guess what: millions of people pay ZERO taxes, and they're not millionaires. While I put myself through college and law school I didn't pay any tax whatsoever. I lived in Oregon, so there was no sales tax. I didn't own a home, so there was no property tax. And I didn't make enough for the government to think that I should have to pay taxes. I didn't pay a thin red penny in taxes until I was 30. Some years, the government paid ME! Can you believe it?!

      And now you're complaining because Mitt Romney-like people didn't pay MORE than millions of dollars in taxes? Seems silly.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. clarke

    They really need to do something about the tax laws. I have no clue what, but something should be done. Lets face it, we need wealthy people in this country and that is ok. But I don't like the wealthy people putting the poor people down and reducing necessary food, clothing and shelter. There really are people who are poor and do not bilk the system. Don't punish all, just thoes who are stealing. Good luck in finding them.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Heather

    If people want equality move to a socialist country. In the United States you get paid more for working harder and smarter. It's called capitalism and it only seems unfair to those who aren't working as hard or as smart as the wealthy.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike


    January 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • AnthonyG

      2 years without a job is pathetic. What are you waiting for? Do you really believe that Romney is going to creat a job for someone who has been out of work for 2 years? Your best bet is to start a business, even if it's shining shoes. Get off your duff already.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      Start applying for jobs then. They aren't going to come knocking on your door. Apply for any job you are ABLE to do, instead of just the ideal jobs you think you'd like. I bet the newspaper every day in your city is full of job listings... how many of them have you applied to?

      January 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. pjusa

    Anyone who blames the wealthy for his/her own problems deserves to languish in the futility they create for themselves.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MKL

    It is obvious that MItt knows how to make more money than any other candidate, so let's put his know-how to work for our country. I really don't understand how the fact of Mitt's self-made wealth is seen as a negative factor against his eligibility as our president. If anything, it should make him more electable, given the current state of our economy.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • newfie

      calling Mitt a self-made millionaire is simply wrong. His father was a multimillionaire and left him both millions of dollars and the lifetime of political and business connections needed to make hundreds of millions. The overwhelming amount of wealthy Americans are such because their parents were ALSO wealthy giving them both the money and the education to maintain that advantage. If you look at CEO's in america today, the one common thread that more than 25 percent share, is that one of their parents was also a CEO or owner of a company. You can bet that Mitt's son's will also be 'self-made' billionaires in time. The american dream...?

      January 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sober

    you can cry or you can get your own.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
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