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. Adam K

    I only care about a candidate's tax return if there is some charge of wrong doing. We have movie stars and athletes in this country that make far more and they are beloved and emulated for it. There is some kind of phobia in this country about a guy that makes money in a business suit. Taxes need to be raised in times of financial hardship, and cut in times of prosperity. Nobody seems to discuss this issue in this fashion. The argument is about how and where the money is spent. Even the authors of the Bush Tax cuts had an expiration date in the bill. Why? Cause things change in 10 years. We have seen them change over the course of days. Nobody likes paying taxes, but living in a bankrupted country is a whole lot worse?

    January 24, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. pray

    Get over it! You are simply jealous, go and get a career and stop moaning about someone doing better than you.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Squiddly

    To Marion Woofer, it's not a crime to be successful it's a crime to pay no gift tax. If I gave my son $100.00 as a gift he would pay more on that than a gift of multi million dollars Romney's paid. That is so messed up

    January 24, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • KCRick

      There are no taxes on gifts up to $12500 per individual – $25,000 for both you and your spouse. For example, you and your spouse could give $25000 to a child and the child would incur no tax liability.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. greg

    Romney's effective tax rate is lower than people in povery or close to it I grant you that. But for the swath of middle america, especially upper middle class america, our effective tax rates are far higher. It is ridiculous that capital is taxed at a lower rate than earnings (which has payroll taxes added on top). The rich have gamed the code, the other end pays nothing, and the shrinking middle class is left with the bill.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Dogu

      Greg, capital gains are taxed less, because the vast majority of those gains are reinvested. Big difference between income which is used to by gaming systems, flat screen TVs, ipods, cars, etc., and income which is invested back into the realm where it will yield its greatest return. Our country would greatly benefit from a president who actually understands this principle.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Mistere

      @ Dogu. If you study the times of economic prosperity, Having more money in the pockets of middle class americans to buy those goods you spoke of does much more for the economy. Obama is a smart man, and understands this principle better than you do.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. greg

    Romney's effective tax rate is higher than people in povery or close to it I grant you that. But for the swath of middle america, especially upper middle class america, our effective tax rates are far higher. It is ridiculous that capital is taxed at a lower rate than earnings (which has payroll taxes added on top). The rich have gamed the code, the other end pays nothing, and the shrinking middle class is left with the bill.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Dick Tarnstrom

      gains are taxed at lower rates because investors were already taxes when they first earned the money they invested. It's double taxation

      January 24, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Tadd

      46% of Americans pay no federal income taxes and this includes people in poverty. I am amazed that most don't realize that about 80% of Americans pay less than 15% in federel income taxes due to exemption, deductions, 401Ks, etc.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dogu

    The only people who care about tax returns are those who want to use it to stir some sort of artificial controversy. Personally, I would much rather have a highly successful, moral, faithful business man lead our country than a peanut farmer, hollywood actor, life time polician, adulterer, Freddie Mac consultant, lawyer, or Obama (not sure what he did).

    January 24, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Mistere

      Yes, me too. So who do you suggest as our candidate?

      January 24, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • BMW57

      Depend on your definition of sucess. One man making an outrageous income and paying less than 15% to the general fund of the country or working to improve the opportunity of millions and living on only 5 million. This man did not earn this income, he lives off the work of others. Income is income, stop the obscene system of 15 capital gains rates. Let him pay 40% on all income over 1 million. Let him pay FICA and Medicare tax on all income. People like him are why we have a deficit. He won't pay living wages to those who work so let him and those like him pay back society in fair taxes for the benfits he has received.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Mitt, You need to drop out of the race for president. You are in trouble now

    January 24, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. bOBHAS

    It is about Romney and all other 1%s. It is the golden rule: he who makes the rules (and keeps them the same) have the gold. The tax code did not appear on tablets. They have been written specifically for the benefit of the few. Do you want to keep it that way or do you have the illusion you will ever be of the 1% ?

    January 24, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Big B

    No fan of Romney but its not fair how he is being treated in regards to his tax plan or his running of Bain. The other Republican canidates claim to support free markets yet they criticize someone who made money from free markets. It just doesn't make sense. Criticize him on his flip flopping, criticize him on his pandering to the right, criticize him on his stance on abortion but my gosh, criticizing him for legally and ethically making money is absolutely ridiculous.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. rmarano

    Smart guy, his investments over the last 2 years collectively is more wealth than the other 3 candidates combined, ill take the smart guy.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. Terry in Florida

    I see people complaining he didn't pay enough, but unlike a lot of people in his bracket he did pay his share. 14% comes out of my dirt-poor paycheck too. The only thing this shows is that Newt can't find a positive leg to stand on in his entire career show he tries to find fault with everyone else. that in my opinion is a traith unworthy of being a leader. Get out of Politics, Newt. You're done.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. rmarano

    Oh and his hair is perfect.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. jkeesey

    Anyone that is making a big deal out of this is crazy. Since when is it illegal to work hard and prosper in the USA. Agreed he is extremely wealthy for a candidate, but he did this by being a succesful businessman. To be perfectly honest this would be a good thing for the US to fix the deficit that is running out of control. Yes, he will probably make some people unhappy but he'll at least make the tough decisions to get us on track. He wouldn't be the candidate to ignore the elephant in the room. It's going to take a strong businessman with economic solutions to resolve the economy and get everyone back to work.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Mistere

      I just love this "work hard" line of thinking. These are the same people that think the ends justify the means. Why do you think having bucket loads of money, knowing the right people that help make the rules, and help you make buckets more on that money is "working hard". I think the guy who has two jobs to make 40k a year and support three kids is working much harder...

      January 24, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  14. Big B

    Sorry meant to say tax returns not tax plan

    January 24, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. steve

    My effective tax rate was 13.9% last year and my AGI was around $150,000. Man this tax code is really unfair! I'm not saying Romney and people like him should pay a higher tax rate, I'm saying that people like me who make considerably less should pay a lower tax rate then these folks.

    Is it any wonder that our wealth is in the hands of fewer and fewer people under this scenario?

    January 24, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
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