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. Texas

    Hey folks I've been saying for YEARS that the wealthy get favorable tax treatment. Duh. That's been true for YEARS. Romney is a typical case. Nothing unusual on his part. People are finally becoming aware of tax accounting for the wealthy. The trick is that with the exception of payroll taxes paid by top atheletes most wealthy folks don't get their "wealth" from payrol wages but rather from CAP GAINS. The Republicans know to downplay this FACT.

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

      Capital gains were taxed at about 30% as recently as 2000 and many deemed it was too low. What happens? George W came and reduced it in HALF!!!!!!!!!!!! And a decade later, this is where we are: Millions of jobs lost, foreclosures and the top 0.00000001% increasing their income/profits by 500% each year.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Welsey

      Let me ask then what you think about this scenario: I earn my money and get taxed at 15-35% depending on what it is that I earned. I then invest this money that has been taxed once. I make more money via capital gains and it gets taxed again at 15%. What is the effective tax rate then? Should I be taxed twice on the initial money that I earned? Do you think it fair to be taxed multiple times on the same earnings (the initial investment)? What proposal do you have to resolve this if you feel a problem exists? If investments and savings are taxed very high do you think people will invest or save?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      January 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Dearest Texas and the rest of you screaming for higher capital gains taxes. Please review this clip and then tell me how smart it would be to raise the capital gains taxes. All that raising capital gains taxes does (proven historically) is to lower revenue to the government.


      January 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • guest43

      some may say that 50% of americans who pay zero fed income taxes are getting "favorable tax treatment". How about a revision all around?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Wesley, you are wrong.

      YOu work make money and pay taxes on Income, not on wealth. The money left over after expenses is WEALTH. If this money is invested, ONLY the gains are TAXED and NOT the original Wealth. What we progressives are saying is that all EARNED MONEY and NOT existing wealth should be taxed evenly.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Anyone is free to invest and risk their money in that investment in this country. We can all have a 15% rate on earnings if we invest. The money you invest is already taxed as earnings at the federal rates. Only the investment income is 15%...but you could loose the money too. Its not just the wealthy that pay 15%, that rate is for anyone to invest. The investment money was already taxed as earned income previously. People commenting don't seem to grasp this concept.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Some Guy

      Yo mama so poor that when I saw her kick a can down the street, I asked her what she was doing, and she said "moving."

      January 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      People, get it right. You don't get taxed on your investment (principal). It's only the money it earns (profit). As for the taxing twice argument, the money I earn from my job is already taxed, but it's that money that I use to drive to work, repair my car, etc in order to earn more money. Is the money I spend to make more money taxed twice? No. Just like a wealthy person's investment. However, they can deduct losses, but I can't (if it cost me more money to earn the same salary, like additional car repairs, high gas costs, I don't get to write that off, but if I had an investment and it cost me more money to make the same "salary", you can write off the losses in principal and reduce the taxes you pay on the same "salary"). Doesn't seem fair.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. apd

    BTW, whether Romney paid his legal taxes or not, he is done. He will announce his resignation pretty soon. There is no way in the days of the Occupy that this moron mormon is going to go anywhere. This will be a good thing for Ron Paul's campaign. Let's all pray that Ron Paul makes it through.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victor

      apd, I'm a dedicated Republican, but if Ron Paul gets the nomination I'm votin' for Nader. That guy has some really weird views on the world.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Perry Hovermale

      I'm a Latter-day Saint (Mormon). Am I a moron too sir?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mormon and Proud

      I'm a mormon, and I'm not a moron. Actually, I'd say most (if not all) mormons are smarter than you are.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LockNesTom

    To the two peeps I saw ragging Gringrich for his low charity consider something. Romney and Obama paid the same precentage to charity, but Gringrich paid 31% taxes! Good God! If I had to pay that much I'd be boned! I'm happy that Obama paid at least 25% that's good. But Romney really should have paid at least 25% as well considering he made 27 mil, that isn't too huge a dent in his life to ask for 25%. But Gringrich paying 31%... wow. He may not give the most to charity but his taxes make up for it lol.

    January 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • CDTrader

      Don, The effective tax rate is total tax divided by gross income. Had Gingrich paid more in charitable contributions, his effective tax rate would have been lower because his deductions would have been greater. What the media fails to report is that the effective tax rate is after all deductions, personal exemptions and credits. Most American's effective tax rate is single digit with many having a negative tax rate due to the Earned Income Credit and other similar credits.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • janelle

      This is exactly what Liberals want. They don't want you or me or Mitt Romney or Newt Gringrich willingly giving money to charaties that we choose, they want us all to give everything to the government, so that the government can decide which groups get money and mete that money out by the governments standards of who is worthy. Which, by the way, usually means to groups who raised the most money for liberals.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Catherine

      Janelle, get real. Nobody denies that Republicans donate to charity, and that's wonderful, but charity does not pave roads, pay our fire fighters, pay our teachers... Like it or not, that money has to come from somewhere.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Don

    What surpised me more was Mr. Gingrich's alimony amount – at his income, he pays less than twice that I do, and his income is over 26 times mine!!! Mitt's taxes were paid according to law, and more went for charity – The Newt's charitable contributions were a fraction of any of the front runners. I usually vote Republican, but if Newt is the choice, I will throw my vote away on a 3rd party candidate.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cary

    This will not change how the wealthy take advantage of the system by getting themselves elected to change laws and use government to distribute wealth back to themselves.

    Hopefully we will see protests large enough to put pressure on these idiots that stuff their pockets with money and leave the ordinary people (like me) to pay for everything.

    Warren Buffet is spot on! Its time for the wealthy in this country to pay a fair share. Its also time for the IRS to start looking around for offshore bank account holders too.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      You are so right with your post! Good point!

      I wonder why the middle class or lower class don't have access to tax loopholes also?? things that make you go hmmm

      Tax laws were written by politicians for the wealthy not to have to pay any.

      The wealthy only create jobs overseas!

      Government jobs are great because at least they stay in America!

      January 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      January 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave in DC

      Define FAIR. The top 10% of us, that's down to individuals making 130k or more, are already paying over 70% of the federal income tax base. What do you want? 100%? The fact is that just about EVERYTHING in this country is paid for by people who make the most. No getting around it. The lower and lower middle class in the end pay almost nothing, with the exception of their SS. It is all there in black and white. You don't want a fair share, you want to bankrupt people that have more than you do. Sure, that's FAIR

      January 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • BrilliantNH

      there is no law against mr. buffett or any other wealthy american that would prevent them from either not taking the loopholes that they take or they can send in a check to the government if they want...

      January 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave in DC

      Jose, Semper Fi Bro. Once a grunt, always a grunt.

      For the individual there really are not that many loopholes, or even breaks for that matter. You basically get the regular deduction they give everyone and you get to deduct for your kids, mortgage interest, charitable giving, and property taxes. That's before things get interesting. Those aren't really loopholes. If you sell stock at a loss, yes, that's a deduction. Those are the biggest things. Past that there isn't much an individual can do. And if you're a sole proprietor you better have your paperwork in order if the IRS comes a calling. If you really want to put it all together flatten it completely and make it zero for people at the poverty level. That scares the government because they couldn't jump onto the back of the top 10% and pull from our pockets.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheNashRambler

      To Jessica and the rest. The poor can and do take advantage of many tax "loopholes". That's how most of them pay nothing in taxes or receive more money than they paid.

      I am middle class, and I receive the benefit of the flattest tax around: the 15% capital gains tax. It doesn't care if you are rich or poor. If you invest your money and gain a return on that investment, it is only taxed at 15%.

      If you are not taking advantage of it, even with taking $25 or $50 a month in saving it or investing it, then what more is there to say?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. roy

    Why should Romney's taxs stir a debate on wealth inequality most people in America already knew this fact years ago you can't get this rich in America if you paid taxes proportinate to your income like middle class wage earners do.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      January 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    "Nevertheless, and contrary to popular perception, Romney's effective federal income tax rate is still above that of many Americans "

    How far above "many Americans" is his INCOME and net worth? The above quote is a load of BS and has nothing to do with anything. It's like saying, "Romney has food to eat, like 'many' Americans" So what?

    January 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      What is your actual point? Nice to know you don't approve of the statement, now care to share why and what differing view you would espouse?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave in DC

    What a bunch of nonsense. First off over 80% of the people that paid taxes paid an effective rate below that of Romney. Most of them significantly lower. And don't tell me they paid SS, not if you're a believer in SS as a real retirement plan. And Romney also paid state taxes, anywhere from 5.3% to 12% in Mass, based on short or long term gains. Romney is part of a select few that can live on capital gains only. These people number in the THOUSANDS. Once again, the left wants to squeeze blood from a stone. Double the capital gains rate. It won't move the needle one bit. Wake up.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • clint in Indy

      Dave in DC,

      You are such an idiot and don't know what you are talking about. I made $120K last year and I paid more than 15%. Of course, cap gain should be taxed. The original investment money was already taxed and it is true, but not the profit. Cap gain tax is on profit, not the original investment. You are really a moron.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TJeff1776

    In spite of APD's remarks above, when one places Romney's moral record against Gingrich.... no comparison. No one reading these outlines thinks for one moment that Romney is going to bow out. LOL......why should he, he is winning. Even now he has more delegates than the others. Besides he is absolutely better qualified morally and experiencewise from a business standpoint than ALL the rest conbined.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich in CO

      "Even now he has more delegates than the others"

      No, he doesn't. Newt has 25, Romney has 14, Paul has 10, and Santorum has 8. As of now.


      January 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich in CO

      ...of course, that's assuming CNN's calculations are correct, which is a big assumption these days.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tim

    While I agree that loopholes allowing the uber-rich to escape paying a reasonable tax rate (35-45%) should be closed, I think it should also be noted that the media is classifying all of us in the lower income as paying an effective tax rate higher than Romney did this year. I for on can say this is not true. Most of the working poor pay taxes unnecessarily, just to receive a large refund at the end of the year. I can attest that I had no income tax whatsoever from 1996 through last year, with my income during a good portion of those years being between $27k and $43k. This year my income tax is 4.9% on almost $53k. I have no problem with someone taking advantage of current tax law, I have a problem with congress not closing the loopholes. Can we not be the 99% and not be jealous?

    January 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • maff

      why is 35-40% reasonable? because they will still have plenty of left overs? 35% is 35% no matter who you are. if you earned that money, its yours. F... paying 35%!

      January 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • maff

      why is 35-40% reasonable? because they will still have plenty of left overs? 35% is 35% no matter who you are. if you earned that money, its yours. F... paying 35%!1

      January 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      35-45% taxation reasonable? That's just federal...add in state, local, RITA, property, licenses, etc and that would mean a total tax rate of well over 50%. Are you serious? Why should we even work to give more than half of it for the government to spend inefficiently. Please feel free to move to Greece.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jim Orens

    Well, as pirates say, "Stick to the code." I am not a Romney fan, but hey, do you know of anyone that pays more taxes than they are legally required to pay? It is the tax code that is at fault, not Romney, but that being said, if you elect one of the current Republican candidates, I dare say that you will see taxes drop for the ultra rich and see taxes on the middle class and poor rise.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Some Guy

      Well said. Thanks for your post.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FMH

    He's rich. Great! I just wish he would go to the Caymans, run for President there, and take all his money and family with him. Convert the whole population to Mormonism, and have a wonderful life. He's too greasy to be my President.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Some Guy

      "I wish he would go to the Caymans." Someone's getting a bit jealous, eh?

      "Convert the whole population to Mormonism." That would be quite nice, actually.

      "He's too greasy to be my president." Two things. He isn't a teenage boy, and I don't want a hobo as my president.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheNashRambler

      Maybe he will, and he'll take all the innovators and entrepreneurs with him. Then America will be left with nothing.

      Who is John Gault? Ever heard that question before?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. maff

    that man did nothing wrong. the tax code could be fix yes... so you pay a lower percent. But please dont say you want him to pay more. You try handing someone a couple million dollars so they can spend it on who knows what... right after you supported your church and charities of your choice.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fernace

    Whole segments of our society is working harder, longer, 2-3 jobs, are taking jobs w/no benefits or security & being laid off & losing homes by the tens of thousands in every state! How can we pat these rich monopolists on the back & say they're just living the American capitalistic dream & all the rest of us need to do is emulate them! Tell that to a dad who's been laid off & the only way to feed his family is through food stamps, which a person has to go through fire loops to get! Being on the govt. dole su. cks rotten lemons! Now these millionaires who have fixed our system in their own favor, want to dismantle the systems we have paid for & is the only thing standing between us & the street! I have no problem w/ millionairs per se, just those plutocrats who want to change America into a nation of the privileged few! We can't let that happen! We want jobs & an honest chance to care for our families, like it used to be when the middleclass was strong! That's what the economy needs, too!!

    January 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Papa Lazarou

    The zombie occupy apocolypse is coming to eat the rich

    January 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
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