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. Com Monsense

    Years ago Rockerfeller tossed out a back-of-the-envelope calculation presuming that the average family grossed $100K/yr.... when it was closer to $25K. People presumed, correctly, that he was out of touch w/ common folk.

    So it is w/ Romney.

    Still, he is the saner GOP candidate. But you gotta figure there'll be changes made to future nominating processes.

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

    He has proven he knows the economy and can build wealth. That's a good thing. Capitalism works. I would love to see what he could do to help the average American citizen.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bert in UT

      He is going to have trouble explaining how a $100 M tax-free gift to his children created jobs in America. He is a poster-child for what is wrong with the US tax code.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. vince86

    Giving to your church is not what I would call a "charitable donation." For church folks, it's considered an obligation.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • spikemanlou

      I agree with you 100% vince86, giving to the Mormon church so that they can continuing building temples and putting teenage boys on 10 speeds to spread the word doesn't really count towards your 17% charitable donation. I believe in that religion along with most religions, that is expected. Nice try Mittens.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. michelle

    Got my W2 today. It would take me almost 8 years to make what Mitt makes in a week. I do cancer research. Can't tell me that's less important than buying and selling companies.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Then you might consider starting a company and hiring researchers – then curing cancer. You get ahead in this country by taking some risks. They don't all pan out, but you will not get "rich" working fir others. By definition the Middle Class is in ... The Middle.

      If you dont want to take the risk if starting a business, consider taking your talents and abilities to a start up. Me. Romney started some, and made others, and himself, a lot of money.

      But don't think you will "get rich" by simply taking from others. That isn't how it works.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimBob

      So, who gets to decide your/my/Romney's income? Pay czar, labor secretary, Joe the Plumber? Or do we let the market set it...

      January 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doc20002001

      Maybe you shouldnt have gotten into research and got into investing – how about this quit your job and join the OWS movement to complain how unfair life is!

      January 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jas

    Romney followed the law – written by millionaires for millionaires.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    Good for Mitt Romney. He shouldn't be taxed anything – he already paid tax on that money when it was first earned and the federal government wants to double dip. If you don't like the money he makes then go and get yourself an education and bust your rear end to make as a good living as he did.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      WRONG!!! The "profit" on his investment is taxed, not his principal.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • hahahahaha

      hilarious man, its so easy! just go get an education and then your good to go! i have an education and I do bust my ass but yet here i am making nothing near what he makes...HE COMES FROM MONEY...end of story.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      It looks like the money was taxed 0 to 15% when it was first earned and he only pays tax on the interest.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann

      I understand your thought, but I disagree with the statement because I do not believe that people are paid according to their value in society.

      Mitt is a businessperson and does very well for himself; however, extraordinary effort from a fantastic teacher doesn't result in more money, it results in brighter children. In fact, everyone salaried – engineers, scientists, researchers – the movers and shakers of GDP, people who create things from nothing, don't make more money for putting in more effort at work. When you're taxed in the middle class, there is less money to reinvest and take advantage of capital gains.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan Townsend

    No wonder Romney was reluctant to release his tax forms. I doubt seriously that he will release twelve years worth like his father. How does he expect to ordinary working Americans to vote for a man who has an income of $50,000 a day without lifting a finger? He simply has no clue. I am unemployed, I would love to find a job at $25,000 much less $50,000 !

    January 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • dugsage

      McDonalds is hiring. So is Wal-Mart. Get out there, take what you can get, and get back on your feet. There's two ways to make yourself look good. First...do a good job. Second..make the other guy look bad.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. steven hicks

    ronald reagan lowered the capital gains to 20% and bush lowered it to 15%. i guess if you are rich, just run for president and when you win lower the tax code to your benefit.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ann

    I'm surprised that a glaring assumption has been left unsaid in this debate. The assumption is that income directly correlates to value in society, but that shouldn't be the case and certainly isn't the case.

    Just because Romney has managed to to keep the proportion of his wealth subject to payroll tax low doesn't mean that valuable members of our society can afford to do the same. "Work 100 hour weeks, make money" doesn't work for all professions. Not everyone can or should be a businessman or woman. Our teachers are paid miserably in their non-entrepreneurial profession with very little wage potential. Should they be subject to the harsher burdens of payroll tax? Capital gains over the principal investment is income and should be taxed similarly to payroll taxes.

    Capitalism works globally. By the time capitalism in the USA "realizes" the value of teachers in producing useful members of society (and compensation adjusts proportionally), our GDP will already feel the hit. Other countries have already figured it out.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      Good point, especially since we need the government to get out of the way of the "job creators", in order to improve this economy, and it's clear to a lot of people now that NOT all "job creators" are created equal, with Romney's record of "job creation".

      January 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cindy

    This guy sure does not see the world from the little guys point of view. He cannot even comprehend how the little guy lives. So the GOP has given us one out-of-touch rich guy in the top 1% of the 1% and the other is a snake-oil-salesman. There's just no hope.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michael

    At least he pays taxes. Most people who make less than 40000 dollars a year with a family of 4 don't pay a dime and actually get money back!

    January 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      Yeah, a lot of families that make $40000 don't pay any taxes. Not going to dispute that, but do you know that up to 70% of our corporations have not paid any taxes in at least one year in the last 10 years, with a lot of supposed "big" corporations going multiple years without paying any taxes? And yes, folks are going to comment that they operated at a "loss" (revenue – cost to do business = negative number). Yes, but let's look at my "corporation". I make about $100k = revenue. I spend $70k to live = cost to do business. Do I get taxed for the difference of $30k? No. I get taxed on total revenue minus a few deductions. Why does my "corporation" pay taxes on total revenue, and corporations only pay on the difference between total revenue and cost to do business?

      January 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Atrain

    Come on world! It's pretty obvious... Romney and the rest of the GOP are fake... They don't care about anything but what's relevant to them, their people and their way of life... Typical Upper class thinking... At least Obama is trying to help the rest of us out... For that reason Obama will get my vote and win in 2012.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dugsage

    I have a great solution for those complaining. Go make $42M this year. Why is he at fault when his rate is in the 20% highest, he pays $14M in taxes, and does it in accordance to the laws put forth. Don't whine about what he's paying, and what you can't afford. Go make more. Put your hand on the shovel, not outstretched, and do some work.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      He pays tax rate is among the 20% highest rates? Okay. The problem is that he made $42M and paid at 14%, and I make less than $100k, and I pay 28%. If he's in the 20% highest rate, I must be in the 1% highest rate, at $100k. Fair?

      January 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ed

    News Flash President Ibama makes millions also, and gives a heck of a lit less to charity.

    We have a lot more to worry about in this country than measuring what the other guy earns.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Smith

      The President make a lot of money, but if you add the amount he pays in taxes and donates to charity, it's closer to 30% of his income. Romney makes a lot of money, but if you add the amount he pays in taxes and donates to charity, it's about the same 30%. The difference is that the President makes about $1 million a year, and Romney makes $20 million. And yes, we do have a lot of issues in this country, and that is why everyone needs to contribute their "fair" share, to help solve some of these issues, and when a group isn't, especially the ones that have done well using "our infrastructure", it's very difficult to solve the some of the issues we have in this country.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Johnson

    More than 50% of his charitable donations went to the Mormon Church.....his biggest, annonymous PAC. They want his to legitimize their religion or cult, whichever.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
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