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. John

    First, we all pay more than just federal taxes. Your total tax rates are state, local, RITA, property, federal, etc combined. Romney paid taxes on earned income, then invested that money...what he makes from those investments is taxed at 15%. So, some of the money is taxed twice. Also, there is risk in investment and he could make nothing or loose it. Everyone can invest and pay a 15% rate (incentive to risk the money). We need a more simple tax structure and people shouldn't pay 40%+ in total taxation.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      john: "Romney paid taxes on earned income, then invested that money...what he makes from those investments is taxed at 15%. So, some of the money is taxed twice."

      You're breaking this down too logically and referencing actual facts. But internet morons don't understand logic or facts.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      On what earned income did he pay taxes?

      January 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • HS


      you state that Romney (or those who invest in markets) end up paying taxes twice on their income. I agree, at some point in time, Romney (and those who invest in markets) would have earned money and paid higher rate taxes on it. They then, use that part of their savings to invest - however, would it be al-right with you if the profit they make on their iinvestments is taxed at 30-35% which the general masses pay on their earned income. You keep your principal amount for investments separate and do not pay any further taxes, but your profit from investments gets taxed at 35%. That sounds fair to me.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Actually that is incorrect he paid 15% on INCOME made from investments so it was not taxed twice. Once for regular earnings and once for investment earnings same deal when you pay fed tax on the interest you earn in your bank account. Income is income regardless how it's made.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      I'm no tax attorney, but I think you're statement is incorrect. The money he had earned and invested (principal) isn't taxed twice. The money that his principal earns is taxed, not his prinicpal. The profit of his investment is only taxed once. However, since he doesn't have to work for the money he lives on, he has no expenditure to earn that money, whereas I have massive expenditure to earn my money (gas, car repairs, etc) which I can't deduct from the money I earned through work. Doesn't seem fair.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anthony Stark

      No. The money isn't taxed twice. The interest earned from investments is essentially new money. And if you have millions invested in a stable company like Kraft or Coca Cola, there is essentially no risk, just dividends that that your grandchildren will live off of. You are never taxed on losses. The problem is that this money is essentially made doing nothing and taxed mercifully while working class citizens pay real taxes. Warren Buffett has even said that a higher capital gains taxes will NOT turn investors away from a potential profit. It's still a profit. I'm not mad at Romney but I am mad at people trying to defend a system that clearly benefits the uber-rich. He can pay what I pay. I lose thousands a year paying my "working" tax rate, being away from my family and busting my butt. Part of that goes to paying people like him to go to Washington and write a fair tax code.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Barry G.

    Not only does it raise questions about wealth, it raises questions about greed, corruption, crony capitalism, influence, etc..
    Since when did “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” become a license to engage in reckless, unethical and greedy behavior, which destroys lives and the fabric of the country?

    January 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrilliantNH

      you mean like the current president giving huge loans of tax payer money to companies that people who raised lots of money for him?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    Romney also was very generous to charities and his church, in addition to the 15% federal taxes. Taxes should be kept reasonable so people can keep more of their own $ and decide how best to spend it...including charitable contributions.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm

      Not sure I'd count the Mormon "church" as being a charity. They dictate to their sheep how much they are to contribute.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • max

      so does the bible. if you remove tax breaks for LDS remove it for all churches and religious orgs. dont pick on one you just dont happen to believe.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Anne

    Yes there is wealth inequality, but there is also intelligence inequality and work ethic inequality ( shall we start discriminating against and whining about people with red hair ?? ). But it is wrong to compare someone who works and earns some wealth with whiners and losers who can't be bothered to work at a decent job. There are huge numbers of people in this country who started with nothing and worked honestly and have built a comfortable life for themselves. That's part of what this country is about. And it works. But that doesn't mean that the achievers owe anything to the slackers. That they often choose to donate to charity is to their credit. I am not very wealthy but I am comfortable, and I OBJECT to simply giving money to people who are not willing to work so that we can have the illusion of our being more equal. And I also OBJECT to excessive salaries and bonuses, for people who don't contribute much to society. We pay some of our athletes and "entertainers" horrible amounts of money, for nothing really. End of rant ( for now ).

    January 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrice

      I would also like to know "how much" is enough for anyone to earn? Have the liberals ever decided on what "everyone" should be making? I know in New York they might not think that $50k per year is enough, but someone in Killeen, TX (Ft Hood) might be thrilled at $50k per year. Who gets to decide how much is enough? Will all those liberal media moguls and hollywood types be willing to give up their money they "earned" and get by on $50k per year? How about all those sports "hero's" – are they going to toss a ball for $50k per year?

      January 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • apd

      Are you freaking serious? The ladders of opportunity are long lost. Romney makes more money FROM MONEY. What part of this evil system do you not get? His children will continue to make money from MONEY and our children will struggle life long just to pay off debts and forgetting about entrepreneurship.

      Unless the filthy rich were paying close to 50% in taxes, the whole system is a joke and the people who justify it are probably used to taking it from behind. US is done. It's time to move back to Scandinavia.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      This comment is to Patrice....most people (liberal, conservative, independent, green, black, yellow, etc) aren't saying that there needs to be a set amount for people to make. We just want things to be fair. I go to work every morning at 6 am, come home at 5 pm, for a year, and I make about $100K. Of every $1 I make, taxes takes about 28 cents. Wealthy people with money to actually make a living off investments (who I don't envy – I'm trying to be one of them too, so I actually "admire" them) however, for every $1 they make, taxes takes about 14 cents, and they really don't have to go to work. Seems a bit unfair. Talk about rewarding the "lazy".

      January 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrilliantNH

      there seems to be a lot of people who dislike that Romney's dad was successful and that the government should take all his dad's money and make Romney start all over? that is a bit out there...

      how much is enough – who cares – this is America – if you work and put your money at risk, then you can earn as much as you can. people say that he doesn't earn it – just making money off money – true – but he is earning it with the intelligence to invest it carefully so he does make money. his money is at risk. so instead of investing in solyndra, perhaps he would have chosen a better place to invest. he does it with his own money and that of other investors, not tax payer money

      January 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Blanes One

    Romney is deemed 'successful'? Only by those who do not actually accomplish something with their work. He and most other politticians are out of touch with those who do accomplish things with their work – teachers, plumbers, pilots engineers etc. At a minimum Romney could acknowledge the unfairness of the tax code and demand his GOP elected representatives correct it.

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

      They're republicans. They don't want their rich friends having to pay taxes. Ironic that the GOP is full of people calling themselves Christians. While Romney does make a lot of donations, it makes no sense to me how people who claim to believe in the bible in which Jesus told the rich man to give up his wealth would support those who hoard the wealth. Hypocritical bedfellows.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jeff

    lets understand effective tax rates. most people(who actually pay taxes) have an effective tax rate less than romney. add in all the tax credits and yes most americans who pay taxes do have an effective tax rate less than romney. dont muddy the water with lies about effective tax rates. lets talk about the 48% of americans who dont pay federal taxes. if we are gonna talk about fairness then lets make the 48% of tax payers who dont pay any effective federal tax rates to pay something. fair is where we all pay the same effective tax rate. flat tax or fair tax- take your pick.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrice

      Let's talk about the effective tax rate of the 48% who don't pay any taxes – yes – that would be ZERO rate for them! Romney made money years ago and paid whatever rate was in effect on his income back then. Then he invested that money and now is paying 14% on the returns on that money. So he paid taxes when he earned it and now on the investment of that money. What we need is EVERYONE TO PAY SOME TAXES and spread the cost around. Nothing is free, someone is paying for all the perks those 48% are getting and it's anyone else in the 52% who are paying taxes. I'm tired of paying for everyone else. Romney broke no laws. If he wasn't running for President you wouldn't have seen his tax return. I think the millions he paid is plenty of taxes, and he gave away more than that to the charity of his choice.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anthony Stark

      Patrice we can start by taking away your home interest deductions.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ben

    Lindy - Where do you get off saying at the expense of jobs and companies? That is simply not true. Do not hate the guy for being smart and successful.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve C.


      January 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. LeeVA

    It should be Gingrich's taxes that stir debate on wealth. The guy gave only 3% to charity, and yet he is on the side that says that charitable organizations should take care of the poor rather than the government. He is on the side that wants to eliminate taxes on capital gains and dividends.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. PB

    I think its important to see the finances of those running for public office. It gives us an idea of who owns thes guys. If they make their own money then they are not as beholden to special intrest groups or lobbiests. For some our politicicians they have no idea how to work outside of politics. They have never worked in the real world. They earn their income by catering to different groups & taking bribes. Mitt has earned his money & can now afford to serve his country rather than milk the tax payers for a pay check.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steve C.

    The LDS and the IRS want your money!

    January 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TJeff1776

    LOL....to read many of these comments...ya have to laugh to keep from crying. To hear them tell it, Romney should have volunteered to pay more taxes. Amazing these youthful Republicans. Screaming about lowering taxes; and yet, Romney should volunteer to pay double. I wonder just how many pay MORE than the law requires. WELL NOW, I don't even have to guess...I know...NONE AT ALL. We are hearing from some, not all, envious hyprocrits. NO QUESTION about it, the financial system in the US of A is flawed; indeed, worse, its ALL messed up. BUT its nothing less than STUPID to blame Romney, who not only paid a just tax BUT also turns out to be a VERY generous man. I saw nothing of that on Gingrich's four(4) million- nothing went to his church and nothing to charity.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steve C.

    I think he should have given 40 million to the church.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. RobinMO

    Our federal tax code is designed to serve and protect the rich and screw the middle class. I made .5% as much as Romney and paid twice the % in taxes. How is that fair? We need to re-establish a real graduated income tax, without the subsidies for capital gains, carried interest and other loop holes the rich exploit. After all, 40 to 50 years ago when we had a real graduated tax system the economy thrived. Also people who pay no federal income taxes pay payroll taxes that are diverted into general revenues from their intended use to support Social Security. Let's stop whining about people "who pay no federal taxes." Such people are virtually nonexistant.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. guest43

    where is all of the vitriol directed at john kerry for having an equal net worth as romney? where are the haters for bill clinton making 10 mil a year giving speeches? if al gore was running would the dems light up cnn about his 100 million fortune?

    January 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • max

      good point. i dont recall any of this coming up when rich democrats run. i dont even hear a serious proposal from rich dems to raise their own taxes....

      January 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. IndyNC

    Here's a kicker, how much of those "charity donations" and other tax deductable 17% are political? hmmm maybe some funding to various PACs etc. I'm curious how much of his own money is going to fuel the election machine

    January 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23