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. sober

    So the consensus is that, in America, God is in fact, the hundred dollar bill.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidE7

      You got that right!!! In this context, it looks like Romney worships money.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Duane - St. Pete FLA

    I'm happy Romney is rich.....I want to be rich......he's paying taxes and giving money to charity.......why is everyone concerned about this? The poor don't pay anything in taxes and yet they use most all the services....the poor need to start to pay for their fair share, maybe they will apperciate them. If it were up to me Romney would be able to keep even more of HIS money. The govermnet is not there to support the poor, assist them a little, but that's it.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      But don't you get it? It's not "fair" that he paid "only" $3 million in taxes. I mean, he "could" pay more, so he should pay more, right? Especially when his taxes go to benefit everyone else who doesn't pay taxes, or who pay very few taxes.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • max

      fairness has little to do with it. anyone living on capital gains can simple buy through a foreign stock market, bond market, etc and not bring the money back to the US. no US taxes on it

      So lets raise the capital gains tax to 39% and have our financial industry die. Sounds great to OWS maybe but not to me...

      January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidE7

      There's nothing wrong with being rich as long as everyone else has enough. When they don't and you are obscenely rich, history shows you are headed for the guillotine.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      max: "So lets raise the capital gains tax to 39% and have our financial industry die. Sounds great to OWS maybe but not to me..."

      Exactly.

      Capital gains are set where there are for public policy reasons: we want to incentivize economic activity and investment, rather than incentivizing people sitting on their money or stuffing it in a mattress.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave M

      I think what seems a little unfair is that he pays less tax on income from investment then actual work. Seems counterintuitive. Is there a mechanism that would not discourage investment but would ensure all income was taxed the same?

      January 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stu

      Fine. Let Mittens keep his money. I don't want it. He can choke on it for all I care. It's not the reason that I wouldn't vote for this arrogant clown even if you put a gun to my head. He's another windbag who brags about bringing America's integrity back when all he has projected to the American people is more of the same. Corporate welfare doesn't work, People! They don't create jobs if you let them have more moeny and loopholes. They will keep it and divvy it up as dividends amongst themselves, just like they did the last time and the time before that and the time before that, etc...

      January 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    Isn't it interesting that almost without exception, we can all find reason to be jealous of someone else. As an administrator in higher education, I can look to many in the media who have strong opinions about Romney's wealth, and wish that I were making the kind of money they (the media) are making. There's always a bigger dog on the porch.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidE7

      People do not envy Romney's wealth, they resent his obvious indifference to the suffering of others (who aren't Mormons).

      January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      david: "People do not envy Romney's wealth, they resent his obvious indifference to the suffering of others (who aren't Mormons)."

      Right. So Romney has a personal moral duty to give to charity, therefore you (as society) can take his money for your own use.

      Perfectly logical.

      Stop trying to impose your own moral standards on others.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nah

    "It's not Romney's fault that he paid only 13.9% in taxes. But it does underscore all that's wrong about our tax code."

    The problem with this statement is the apparent implication that the tax code lets the rich off "easy". Except, as CNN has pointed out several times, 80% of Americans pay less than 15% of their income in taxes. And considering Romney paid $3 million in income taxes this year, his contribution seems to far outweigh most other people's contributions.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidE7

      You must work for Romney. Tell your boss that, once again, he's not going to be able to buy the Presidency.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      david: "You must work for Romney. Tell your boss that, once again, he's not going to be able to buy the Presidency."

      Err..what?

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

    The solution would be the flat tax. But the DEMS would never be for that.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      Naturally. It's not "fair" that someone should pay $3 million in income taxes every year, especially when their $3 million goes to benefitting far more people (taxpayers and non-taxpayers) than the 15% paid by everyone else. Right?

      January 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      A Flat Tax is not fair either. X% of $50,000 is still a smaller amount than X% of $5,000,000. Don't we all drive on the same roads?

      The truth is, no tax system is "fair" when viewed as a penalty that must be paid. Try looking at it as a burden that must be shared.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mac

    Mitt paid his legal share of taxes. I have not have not heard a plan form a GOP candidate that would not lower his tax rate even more.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidE7

      Immoral people always appeal to the fact that something is legal. I'm with Gene Autry "the only law is right".

      January 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. edka

    Three million dollars in taxes each year and people complain about it. Those who complain, look at your 2010 income tax and see what you contribute to this country. I bet you filed for tax refunds.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      edka: "Three million dollars in taxes each year and people complain about it. Those who complain, look at your 2010 income tax and see what you contribute to this country. I bet you filed for tax refunds."

      But see, the rich owe everyone else money. They should have to pay for all the roads, bridges, and government functions that we all enjoy every day. Right?

      January 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • CaliforniaBC

      edka... it's not the amount of cash paid, it's the PERCENTAGE of the income paided. THAT is the issue. How much average American pay percentage-wise vs what the rich pay.

      See the distinction yet????????

      January 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      california: "edka... it's not the amount of cash paid, it's the PERCENTAGE of the income paided. THAT is the issue. How much average American pay percentage-wise vs what the rich pay."

      Sorry but that isn't the issue.

      If Warren Buffett pays 15% of his income and his secretary pays 20%, his 15% may be astronomically more money than the 20% from the secretary. That is, 15% of Buffett's income numbers in the tens of millions, whereas his secretary's 20% ends up in the low thousands.

      Now who is not paying their fair share in that equation, especially considering that each of them enjoys all public services equally, but one is paying vastly more for those services than others?

      January 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidE7

      Nobody complains about how many taxes Romney paid. They complain that the tax laws allowed him to pass $100 million of income to his children that went totally untaxed.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      david: "Nobody complains about how many taxes Romney paid. They complain that the tax laws allowed him to pass $100 million of income to his children that went totally untaxed."

      Any income he's made was taxed. 15% of the whole is 15% of every dollar. If he's going to pass money to his children (outside of probate), he's already paid his share of taxes on the income. So how can you - as a third party unrelated to Romney - have any legitimate claim to his money?

      How can you demand that he pay "you" his money merely because he died?

      January 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Duane - St. Pete FLA

    class warefare......the liberals love to stir the pot.....and they get a great reaction because most are of the poor vote liberal so they can get some free stuff!!!!! you know, stuff the poor deserve! TV's, cars, houses, free medical, boob jobs.......hell, why work? You liberals would do much better from America if you all stopped handing out crap and encouraged the poor to a) value an education b) respect the laws c) pick up a paint brush or a broom and take care of where they live.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      AMEN

      January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hypocrisy Hunter

      Duane, you left a few narrow-minded stereotypes out of your posts. Like the hedge fund managers arrested for insider trading. Or the military who earn very little to defend your right to state such drivel. Tell us again why they don't deserve to watch TV.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane - St. Pete FLA

      sure, they can have TV's, tell you what, you buy them for them and keep your hands off of MY money idiot.....

      January 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SeveRheaD

    I'm by no means for Romney in this election, but it has to be said that no one should be directing their anger or disgust on this issue at him...he doesn't choose his tax rates....and he surely won't request to pay more. The frustration should be directed towards the tax code and the policies in place. The questions we should be asking are, is this an effective system? If not, where is it wrong and how do we fix it......NOT.....Romney makes a ton of money....gimme some.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • DavidE7

      I don't like it when someone gets a lot of money via financial manipulation that adds nothing of value to the society. The whole concept of money is based on its relationship to goods and services. Buying and selling companies is like gambling in Vegas. We don't want that to enable someone to buy the Presidency.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CaliforniaBC

    The person who tweeted about the charity donations... I wonder if they considered that half of that was more than likely the $1.5 mil he is required to pay to the Mormon church. If that requirement wasn't there that percentage would be ~7%.

    Given that it's worth noting Obama's tax rate (25%) and how much he donated to charities (14%).

    January 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. penquin3

    I do not have a problem with wealthy individuals earning their money. Many give to charity and try to help their fellow man. What is unfair and I do have a problem with is that Romney and those like him would begrudge others the right to earn a living wage, cripple unions and other protections that the common worker needs to maybe go on a vacation or buy some things (thus spending money and helping the economy) or even retire with a little comfort. Because of people like Romney (and other wealthy businesspeople) things like pensions, paid vacation time, a decent wage are going away or are gone. They have outsourced many jobs, laid people off so the bottom line looks better for their stockholders, and shuttered manufacturing all in the name of making more money.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hypocrisy Hunter

    Rick, are YOU for a flat tax? ALL income taxed at the same rate? Investments as well as wages? Social security taxes on ALL income? Didn't think so. Tea Baggers would never go for that.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat

    No one even talked about goverment's role in the economy up untill the 50's in anything but a positive light. From 1776 untill then buissness was government and vice-versa. In fact one of the most common professions in Congress from the first untill now is buissnessman. They used the government to do what no buissness man or buissness can do alone, the government distributed resources for the companies to exploit and both the Goverment and buissness shared the wealth equally. This whole "Free Market" is nothing but propaganda, any sort of true Capitalist system was dissmissed as ludicris by our founders and, just like Pure Communism, has been not even considered as a viable economic system by all but a few passionate supporters for 200 years. The only nation that comes close to a "Free Market" is the UAE and then maybe Iceland. Most nations today are Mixed Market or Communal Capitalist.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JimsOpinion

    One would think that high income individuals would pay at least the percentage of GNP that is government spending, currently about 24%.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gerard

    We should be like cuba and let the dictator have all the money,then they can just give us what we need to get by.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
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