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. JCCMAINE

    Romney did nothing wrong. He took advantage of legal tax breaks. We do no different when filing our taxes. A portion of everyday Americans cheat on their taxes but yet have the nerve to give Romney grief because he paid 6 MILLION dollars in taxes over the last 2 years. Do people even realize that someone making 23k a year pays in 1k but gets back anywhere from 2-5k from earned income credit? Wake up people. Romeny should not be penalized for being successful. Obama never has been and should be sent packing!

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

      Agree with JCCMAINE; Romney's $6,200,000 in taxes did more for the country's social programs, infrastructure, and country debt than the next 1000 of the complainers who may have paid a higher net effective tax rate! Do we really want a business loser for a President? Really?

      January 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • dbods

      Typical response. You do realize that it is a little more difficult to survive on 23k than 42 million. Please tell me why I pay a higher percentage than Mitt. I work just as hard (I daresay the person making 23k probably does also) but more of our income is exposed to taxes than Mitt's. Has he created a lot of jobs with that income – almost every move he is currently making now is paid for by the campaign yet he continues to make millions. What sacrifice is he making comapred to an individual that goes to work everyday whose job can be removed at the whim of another Mitt?

      January 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. janelle

    President Obama's income puts him in the 30+ percentilel bracket, but I noticed he paid 25% taxes, so he didn't pay his "fair share". How can he complain that others don't?

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

      He is the one who wants to pass legislation, Buffet Rule. He is willing to pay more Gop does not want to.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • kevin

      exactly get off obamas back he hasnt done anything to you, and yes he wants to pay more thats why he is trying to increase how much rich people pay, do you think Romney wants to do that ??? no he is glad he is only paying 14% or less, and also for everyone yelling he donated to a church ??? how you know that his bestfriend isnt the pastor and he is basically giving him the money for a write off because what church needs that much money ???? i bet its homeless people and kids sitting right around the corner starving to death and sleeping in alleys.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mpa

    I don't understand why this is news. To be a politician in the USA you have to be rich first. Look at the democrats. When was the last time you published data on Nancy pelosi or Diane fienstein? They make more than that and they are women. Look around and you will see the pattern in democrats and republican alike.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      They posted Pelosis' last week. Obama wants to pass the Buffet rule remember?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dagobert II

    If the wealthy are expected to pay more in taxation should they also not receive more in the way of rights? Perhaps everyone's vote should be multiplied by their tax liability so we can keep taxation commensurate with representation. Publicly held corporations could apportion their votes to the stock holders.

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

      Are you serious? The rich DO receive more in the way of rights. They have FAR more power and influence in society. Should they? No way. Government services aren't like buying Cable. The government is supposed to represent the public good. When one Has so much, one should contribute more to that end. That's Christian, as well as civil.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steven hicks

    how can romney be impartial and stop the loop holes in the tax code as president, when he is taking advantage of it himself?

    January 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      What "loopholes" are you referring to. My God, between all taxes and charitable giving he paid over 41%!!

      Are you claiming that giving money to a charity is a "loophole?". If so, our country would be way better off if more took advantage if that one.

      Looks to me as if Romney paid plenty...

      January 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • steven hicks

      he wouldnt of given to charity if it did not benefit him.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      I work very had too but cant make what they. They enslaved others to make the millions for them. Some of that money should be going to hard working Americans who work for the companies that raise their wealth

      January 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jay zee

    where are all the jobs he is creating from all his wealth? after all he is a "job-creator"

    January 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. guest43

    the libs on this string who keep using the term "loophole" are laughable....it is not a "loophole" you idiots...cap gains are taxed at x rate...a loophole would be an unintended consequence of legislative drafting. Romney paid once on income at mush higher rate and government takes a second bite if an investor like romney realizes gains when he sells. is it a loophole that allows 50% of americans to pay $0 in fed taxes?

    January 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • R.Schultz

      Also, folks should understand too, that capital gains are double taxed profits, they're taxed at the corporate and the personal level. Unlike any other business where "income" is a business expense, so the corporation would write that off or in a single family business or partnership, it would lower the businesses equity and just be taxed on the personal income level. The actual rate paid on those profits is in the 40% range.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • dbods

      Nice stat – I suppose you want all 17 year olds making 4k a year to pay taxes, They fall into that 50% bucket. Tell me this – I get up everyday and go to work. Mitt can sit on his butt and make 42 million. Why is labor valued so mcuh lower than money? Great, he is successful, but he is paying a much lower share of all his "income" into Uncle Sam's pocket than I. Why?

      January 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mike

    @Dagobert II

    If the wealthy are expected to pay more in taxation should they also not receive more in the way of rights? Perhaps everyone's vote should be multiplied by their tax liability so we can keep taxation commensurate with representation. Publicly held corporations could apportion their votes to the stock holders.

    Its not pay MORE, its pay their FAIR SHARE. How hard is this to understand? No one is saying that weathly Americans should be an insane amount of money, but that the tax rate should be bumped up by 3 percent in order to add MUCH NEEDED revenue to the system and to start to balance out the inequality between the distribution of income in this country.

    GOD do republicans have thick skulls. Getting tired of arguing the same god d@mn argument day in and day out.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Since when was the purpose of income taxes to "balance income inequality?". Of course it is understandable that since over 50% of Americans pay no income tax, and a hefty pecentage actually get money backthey never paid "earned income tax credit" it is understandable that many Americans dont have a clue about the tax code.

      If want "income equality" you might consider an address in – say – Cuba.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. R.Schultz

    Well, between taxes and charity, Romney gave away 42% of his income. Last year President Obama gave 1% to charity, and Vice President Biden wrote of $369.00 in charitable income.

    Why are people so obsessed with what someone else makes? Does Romney paying 1% more in taxes or making 1% more in income really have an effect on anyone, other than quelling or inflaming envy? No. And if you want income inequality to be lessened, then you'll want a full blown depression. That is the only time in American history that income inequality shrank, because people that were rich lost more than the poor. Under Clinton, taxes went up and income inequality grew too.

    Or people could just worry about their own house and stop worrying so much about everyone else's.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ed

    Obama will raise a Billion to get re-elected. THAT is corruption, not that Romney paid what he did for taxes.

    And jay zee, ROmney has created tons of jobs by keeping businesses open and expanding. Sure SOME businesses fail but there is NO gaurantee that ANY business will succeed.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. smartypants

    GEEZ, what a double standard. For Obama, we didn't even get to see a birth certificate until he had been in office 2 years, and then it was only grudgingly. Did the media care? No. Obama's college transcripts are a mystery. Does the media care? No. How many years of tax info did Obama volunteer? His shady real estate dealings and such didn't seem to bother CNN a lot. But when a Republican comes along we need to know everything up to his last prostate exam? What a joke.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KatR

    When the first 1040 form appeared in 1913 it was a simple form geared to the theory "the higher your income the greater the tax you owe". Over the course of the century since then the income tax legislative code has grown to monster proportions that the average American has difficulty understanding. What we have now is no longer a progressive system of wealth/tax but rather a system in which your career choice determines how much tax you will pay. Why should someone who chooses a career in financial speculation pay a lower tax than someone who chose a career in another field? Capitalism isn't (or shouldn't be) geared to favor citizens who choose one career over another.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. steven hicks

    how can romney bring back jobs as president, when we are competing with people in other countries who make 300 dollars a month from companies like microsoft and apple. sounds like it is cheaper to pay someone in india than pay an american minimum wage.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kevin

    Ok Newt and Romney release their Taxes, So when is Omama going to release his? This is not just about the Reps it is about the Dems as well. They are no different than any one else. So tell me CNN and all you Omama lovers why aren't you pressing for Omama Taxes to be release and told to us. Come like to have an answer please.....

    January 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TheRobberBaron

    One might look at this situation and think "If I want to lower my tax rate, all I have to do is STOP earning money, and START investing money!" But all the companies doing well and delivering those capital gains to investors are doing so BECAUSE there are people working there, earning money (and paying a higher percentage in taxes in the process). If everyone who wanted to become an investor stopped working, there would be little left to invest in. Why should those who make money off other people's work pay proportionately less than the person doing the work in the first place? And yes, I'm someone who works for a living and pays my 30+%, and whose investments over the past 20 years have delivered far less in the way of capital gains than I would need to live on. Bitter, yes, I won't deny it, but my bitterness doesn't mask that the leeches who make money off others' work, without doing any work themselves, should be responsible for a higher tax rate than those breaking their backs to earn a living. Just my one cent (it used to be two cents, but after taxes all I have left is one).

    January 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
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