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. Nuwan

    Romney tax rate indicates the broken tax code in USA. And US Congress dominated by Republicans would not allow to change it, to remove loop holes and make it fair so that people like Romney who could and should pay at a higher rate than me ( middle class) would do that. I who make much less than 0.5% of Romney's income should not have to pay a higher tax rate. That is not class warfare or against capitalism as Republicans wants to call it. It is about fairness those hypocritical Republicans do not want to accept. Any person with common sense would see it. Well, on the other hand Republicans do not have common sense. They have extreme sense to destroy the middle class by squeezing them to death.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      nuwan: "And US Congress dominated by Republicans would not allow to change it, to remove loop holes and make it fair so that people like Romney who could and should pay at a higher rate than me ( middle class) would do that."

      Alas, more loaded language. A tax deduction explicitly provided for by law is not a "loophole". Sorry to burst your bubble.

      "I who make much less than 0.5% of Romney's income should not have to pay a higher tax rate."

      First, chances are you're part of the 80% of Americans who pay under 15% of your income in taxes.

      Second, whether you pay a higher "rate" is irrelevant to the actual fact that Romney pays multiples of what you do in taxes every year. Pointing to percentages, rather than actual taxes paid, is a convenient but fallacious way to distort the issue.

      "It is about fairness those hypocritical Republicans do not want to accept."

      And how is it "fair" to demand that a small portion of society pay for the government benefits that the rest of society enjoys?

      January 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mac

      Agree with Nuwan. The tax system is broken. The promise from Republicans if we changed the tax laws (to be fair, Dems contributed to changing the laws too) and lowered the tax rate on the rich is that we would all benefit. I've been waiting 30 years for this to happen. It hasn't. It's a lie. Middle class wages have stagnated for 30 years. I like capitalism and love my country, but the current system needs serious reforming. The Republicans say that cutting taxes for the rich helps "create jobs." Well, I truly believe that if you raised taxes on the rich by 3-5% and cut taxes on the middle class that that would spur job creation much more evenly across the 50 states and in different towns and cities as opposed to in Greenwich CT, or Southhampton, NY, or Palm Beach, FLA, or Santa Barbara, CA.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      mac: "Well, I truly believe that if you raised taxes on the rich by 3-5% and cut taxes on the middle class that that would spur job creation much more evenly across the 50 states and in different towns and cities as opposed to in Greenwich CT, or Southhampton, NY, or Palm Beach, FLA, or Santa Barbara, CA."

      First, no one says only cut taxes for the rich.

      Second, giving more money to the government will create jobs how? By giving it back to businesses who create jobs and paid the taxes in the first place? What an efficient system.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      @Nah – what you forget is that the middle class income is stagnate while the cost of living is constantly increasing. At the same time the median CEO's pay increased 27% last year. Fortunately that number is a median and not an average as the average would be even more. Now, since the companies are not increasing employee's pay, for the benefit of the investor and the top executives, something needs to intervene or the US will look more like India with great numbers of poor living in tents while the rich drive million dollar cars.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mb2010a

    If I read the word "counterintuitive" on more time...most of the people using it don't even know what it means.
    So Romney is a rich 1%er...I don't care. At least he's honest about it. More than I can say for Gingrich or the rest of them.
    I would not base my vote for someone on how much they have (or do not have) in the bank or how much taxes they paid.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sw

    He paid his taxes, that is better than some in Obama's administration....

    January 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • INDEPENDENT VOTER

      Obama' s got this election in November. No Mitt, No Newt.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • CindySF

      Proof????

      January 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve C.

      Example?

      January 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wade

    There is no debate amongst honest and intelligent people. CNN has told the truth that 80 % of Americans pay the same or less as a tax rate than Romney. 80% While the IRS reports that 47 % pay no that is NO income taxes at all. So the only debate should be is why is Obama trying to cause a class war fare? Could it be because he has been the worst president in American history and trying to be like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela pitting the successful or rich against the less fortunate? COMMUNIST AMERICA that is all Obama has given to us.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mac

      If you'd ever lived under a communist regime you would know that Obama has not created a communist regime here and we don't live in a communist country. Know the meaning of your words.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      What the heck are you smoking? 80% pay a lower rate than Mitt? It scares me that you can vote.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      Communist America? Dude, lay of the red colored coolaid bro, your talking out of your rear end.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve C.

      idiot!

      January 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. INDEPENDENT VOTER

    99 percenters will not vote for .0006 percenter. No way M.R.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WillieK.

    Kudos to Romney for being successful and having smart accountants who use all the loopholes to keep his rate low. Shame on a Congress so bought-and-paid-for by special interests that there are two tax codes in this nation - one for the working people and one for the investors. Nothing wrong with investing, but the real tax breaks should go to those who work for their money and those who employ people who work for their money. People like Romney do neither and therefore should pay a higher percentage to help defray the cost of national defense, infrastructure and social programs for those less fortunate.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. LINDY

    I can't wait for Romney to win and go against Obama & the 99. His response to not apologize for being successful will not play well, what goes with that is "I will not apologize for being successful at the expense of american jobs and american companies". Sorry GOP maybe in 2016!

    January 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Not only that....but I'm sure Mittens can't sing as good as the Prez either.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    I'm sure his money is all legal. And as President, I'm sure he would make sure it stays legal for the 1% to pay the lowest percentage tax rates. But it's ok, cuz their giving us all these jobs.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Middle Class

    It's funny how slanted the interview was; apparently there are no rich democrats who inherited money and/or are super rich? Oh wait, the Kennedy's and Kerry's. Also, he never mentioned who wrote the tax bills giving these super rich the tax break?
    Sorry, but I have a problem with those saying the evil rich republicans are out to destroy the middle class. It's the rich who control the government and give themselves raises and tax breaks. I personally believe a majority of the 1% are democrats; hollywood stars, professional athletes, etc. So, it is not R Vs D, it's the rich who are keeping what they have.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. FromAtlanta

    Although this has been said a number of times in a number of ways, I don't think you all are getting it so I'm going to say it one more time ~ Is not part of the American Dream to be rich and successful? Why are we crucifying Romney? Be realistic people; average Americans will never be President ~ they haven't got the financial resources. Our apathy in decades past allowed today's reality ~ We the People made this bed, now We the People will just have to lie in it!

    So, PLEASE, stop your whining ~ get off your duff and DO something about it! I'm sick to death of this Democrat/Republican/Independent b.s. ~ whatever happened to being AMERICAN!

    As I read these and other comments, this is what I hear; "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." - Abraham Lincoln

    January 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. yahmez the mad

    Is Romney bad because he followed the tax code? No.
    Are republicans bad for fighting to keep the tax code inequitable? Yes. Vote them all out.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. susanmsh

    I certainly don't begrudge Mr. Romney his financial sucess but his income and his comments such as, "I made some money on speaking fees, but it wasn't very much," proves how out of touch he is with the financial realities the rest of us have to deal with. How can someone who doesn't truely understand who the middle and lower class are effectively respesent me and have my best interest in mind?

    January 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rockysfan

    This SHOULD stir debate AND change! I do not begrudge Romney his wealth. What I take issue with is the fact this multi-multi millionaire does not pay the same taxes I do. That is an issue and that is a PROBLEM. Congress needs to get off their d u f f s and do something. They should do jail time for insider trading also! Call it what you want Pelois, it's insider trading no matter how you look at it. Period.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      So you payed over $3 million in taxes last year?

      January 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Justin C

    What we all should REally be talking about is why we all have to pay so much taxes? Why should anyone have to give 15% or more to the government who will just waste it?

    January 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jerry

    First let me state that Romneys "Non Profit" donations are to the LDS which is worth about 30 to 40 BILLION when they only have less than 1% of the worlds population... Second Romney certainly hasn't done anything wrong but our government sure has!

    January 24, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
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