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. Cody Wright

    LISTEN PEOPLE, IT's THE CARRIED INTEREST EXEMPTION that should be changed here not the capital gains rate. Mitt Romney made so much money because of the way he structured his deals, which is the way most rich people structure their deals. which is to take advantage of the carried interest exemption. Romney would invest other peoples millions and negotiate a certain percentage of the proceeds for himself. Now, the person who invested millions is going to pay the 15% capital gains tax rate. Also, because of the rich favored tax code, Romney also pays the 15% rate on his take even though he didn't put up his own money. That is wrong. Do real estate brokers pay 15% on their income, NO. Then why should he? If you do away with the carried interest exemption it won't deter either party from doing the investment. The investor will still get the 15%, and Romney will make $3.5 million on a $5 million return instead of $4.25 million. I think the investments in the economy will still go forward :). The carried interest exemption is just a way to disguise ordinary income as capital gains. And its how most rich people legally cheat paying much taxes.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • It all depends on how you look at it...

      So...Basically these investors instead of taking a lump sum for services provided...say a "consultation fee" from freddie mac...instead they postpone payment and tie their earnings to the success of the investment they are managing...sure sounds like they are not only risking their own paycheck, but also providing confidence to their investors that they will manage their funds well...I wish all investment managers did that, most take money whether you win or lose.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. VACitizen

    I make 22k a year and pay 15% taxes. Why do I have to pay more than he does?

    January 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      did you pay $3 million?........no you didnt.....and no one person no matter what they make should have to pay the government that much just for them to blow

      January 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Who does your taxes

      I don't know what country you live in but the effective tax rate of a person making 22K is not 15% unless you're getting scammed. I have to wonder how many of these posts are actually real.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      No you didn't. The 15% tax bracket starts at 8500.01 so the first 8500 you made was taxed at 10% and the remaining 13,500 was taxed at 15%. That is a total of 2875 which comes out to 13%. So in essence you should be making only 22,000 since you can't even do a simple calculation. All this assumes you have NO deductions so your may even be lower.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • craig

      you did not pay more than Romney did, he paid over 6 million in taxes i think a fair share, I am tired of this whole conversation. It is not a sin to be wealthy. and I am not wealthy.He gave to charity more than we pay in taxes.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • What's your point

      I don't think you understand the difference between tax bracket and effective tax rate, VACitizen. Are you married, any kds, any other deductions that you took? Just because you're in the 15% tax bracket does not mean that you had an efective tax rate of 15%. In fact, since the first $17,000 for a married person and $8500 for a single person are taxed at the 10% rate, that means that not all of your $22K is taxed at 15%. So, I can tell from your limited info that your effective tax rate is much lower than 15%. The easiest way for you to figure out your effective tax rate is to divide yourtotal tax bll by your $22K. As an example, let's assume you're single with no kids and no EIC. With a $22K salary, if you took the standard exemption for single ($5950) and the single personal exemption ($3800), that brings you down to $12,250. Assuming NO exta deductions or credits (which is unlikely), your tax bill would be $1,400. Guess what, that gives you an effective tax rate of 6.3%! So, you are NOT paying anywhere near the same percentage as Mr. Romney!

      January 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • james spence

      Ok first the vast majority of Mitt income is from capital gains( ownership of companies which are taxed at from 30-38%) why should this icime be tax again. second mynath show it actually about 9 m which he give a third to his which everyone can and write off on line 16 on schedule a

      January 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • VACitizen

      Single, head of household, no deductions that I know of. I put everything into Tubotax and am getting nothing back at all and I paid out about 2800 in taxes. So is Turbotax wrong?

      January 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Swap

      there is so much wrong with your claim I don't know where to start. Filing single with only yourself as an exemption you should have a tax liability of about 1440.00. If you are head of household that means you have a dependent and then you will be getting $$$ in the various credits. You have scrambled Turbo tax!!

      January 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • nancy

      Being a tax expert, I can say that it is HIGHLY unlikely that you paid 15% at 22k. His tax rate was only slightly less. Not that he needed to, but he more than made up for that difference in his charitable contributions and personally, I think that DOES make a significant difference. What % did you give to charity?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Richard

    Under "We Recommend" you should remove the link to . The woman has been dead for several days. Please replace that link with one which celebrates her brilliant career.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Richard


    January 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Barbara

    Hey Mitten! Can you donate a couple million to my Charity? We help the working/middle class that have fallen between the cracks. And they are hard workers too Mit! But have a hard time making ends meet. So help your neighbor out. Go to http://www.BeliefforRelief.org to make a donation. Thanks for your donation!

    January 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The Left Wing

    Remember Romney saying he was unemployed too. I bet he really feels the pain of the unemployed. It sure is tough when you "earn" 21.7 million a year while you are unemployed.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      You aren't very smart are you? Bet you've heard that question a few times in your life.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Did you neglect to see the irony in that remark? What else do you overlook?

      January 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Massachusetts Romney hater

    I would comment on this tax that Mitt Romney pays . But I would rather just say the rich suck and we just keep making them richer. Vote against Mitt and save America. Make the rich pay their fair share . Why would WE THE PEOPLE let this happen. Put your foot down now .Change the tax laws NOW

    January 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mike

    It is MORALLY WRONG when you have starving people in this world (and those suffering during these touch economic times) and the wealthy (including actors/actresses and sports figures) have luxury home(s), luxury car(s), private jets, yachts, etc.! This is especially so when these wealthy individuals preach "family values"!

    January 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • joma

      So it's "morally wrong to give $6+ million to charitable causes. How 'bout you, Mike- do you give 15%?

      January 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Would you feel better if he sold all his stuff and put the cash in the bank?? At least all the things you describe keep cash flowing within the US economy. You are so far off base it is a waste of time trying to educate you.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • What do you do?

      Would you have everbody walk around sad all the time because there are still people starving in the world? Would you like to mandate by law that everyone give everything but what they need to fund poorly managed countries. People should have the RIGHT to enjoy the results of their talents and hard work. Of course there is a moral obligation to help those in need. But it is the RIGHT to choose when and where to donate that will define our evolution. It is choosing to give that makes us human and it's picking ourselves out of the mud that makes us alive. If we took everything from those that have and gave to those that didn't we would deny their society and culture the RIGHT to make their own success. We would atrophy their growth and create a dependant welfare state.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      To Mike the socialist,
      I'm sure you would love a welfare state. It provides for you without you having to make excuses to sit on your a$$ and do nothing. no more looking in the mirror and having to reflect on the wasted opportunities in your life that could have made you wealthier. You get to be a succubus without the guilt! How great is that? Curse those rich people who actually put effort into improving their lives! (sarcasm). Life is so unfair! You are an idiot and should not be allowed to vote.

      January 25, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. Name*

    What's the rising costs of gasoline, etc. mean to politicians who make millions? Not a damn thing. Perhaps that's why we see such little change in the lives of ordinary citizens for the better. The rising cost of living has virtually no impact on the quality of life of these politicians!

    January 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      "What does the rising cost of gasoline mean to people who make millions?" I'm sure the rich still drive around in cars (or have someone else who does the driving instead), and last time I checked planes still ran on fossil-based fuels (although it's not gasoline like what goes in our cars). So I'm pretty sure they still feel the pinch when you aggregate the total money they spend on fuel and other necessities.

      It's so easy to vilify the rich simply because they have lots of money, but few understand the idea behind an increased standard of living. Sure they enjoy certain things that us poor folks can't, but they also have to spend more money in order to keep earning the kind of money they're getting.

      Mitt Romney isn't someone I would demonize for being successful. He took risks with his money that could have resulted in him going broke just as easily as it could have made him the multimillionaire he is today. If anything I'm going to demonize him on his liberal, big government, record while he was governor.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joma

    Yeah, Dems, you've opened my eyes. Better to have a president who is not successful. When Romney released his tax info, a boat load of Dems in Congress cringed- because that disclosure will now be asked of them also. But not to worry- there all 99% ers..

    January 24, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. southern

    if i made ump some millions a year i could afford to give to charity as well; and i say good on him for using the present tax write off of donating to charity........but alas i only make $27,000 have a wife and child to take care of.....with all that includes. so to those gripping at the poor for not handing out every dollar to charity, get real. i have no money left at the end of my pay period to invest. if your rich or well to do, congrats; if the dollar drops through the floor......well good luck atleast i know how to hunt. lmao

    January 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • joma

      Use of the language in this way- "Good on him" ? "if YOUR rich.."?.. will not bump up your income. Work more on that and less on polishing your pistol.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • What's your point

      Southern, if you're married with a kid, that means you get a $11900 standard deduction and $11400 personal exemption (3 dependents). Take that away from your $27K and guess what that leaves ... $3700. For that amount, your tax bill would be $370. But, you get te Child Tax Credit, and most likely EIC, so your effective tax rate is 0%. So, you pay NOTHING in federal income taxes and you are griping because somebody else paid 14% in federal income taxes?

      January 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Swap

      And, if he took and pledged a $1000 or so of his refund to an IRA he would receive another credit and have the start of a retirement account. You nailed it Whats your point.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    It is MORALLY WRONG when you have starving people in this world (and those suffering during these touch economic times) and the wealthy (including actors/actresses and sports figures) have luxury home(s), luxury car(s), private jets, yachts, etc.! This is especially so when these wealthy individuals preach "family values"!

    January 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Please stop whining. Rich people rock. The only people complaining are those that are broke as a joke.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Greg

    What a bunch of haters! You people that hate on other people being good at making money are ridiculous. He paid 3 million in taxes so you can sit on your fat butt and collect free money or get up at noon. Get over it and figure out how to play the game and win or just be happy where you are at. Rich people are not gunning for you, trying to make you poor. They are just work smarter than you.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Drink the kool-aid...must drink the kool-aid...

      January 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Drew

    Any one that would like this guy or any Repubs/Teaparty in office please get your head exam. Watch the GOP cry for the extension of Bush Taxcut that is set to expire in 11 months. Please, lets vote these clowns out of office.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      As Boehmer cries about everything, this won't come as a shock.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. vincent

    this entire discussion is so stupid. we need a starting point. so.... can ANYONE give a VALID reason that the "rich" should pay more federal taxes?

    the fact is that there is NO REASON for the "rich" to be paying more federal taxes. in fact, they should be paying a lot less in federal taxes. the reality is that federal taxes should be cut by one half to one third of their current levels.

    (and i am in the bottom half of the wage earners in america so im not defending "my" tax level)

    any takers on this question? be prepared to defend your answer! and no yada yada yada blue sky bs. opinions, jealousy, bitterness and hate are not reasons. name-calling, mud slinging, venom spitting and personal attacks have no place in this challenge.

    answers that have a third grade level thought process behind them will get no response. answers that have merit, whether i personally agree with your answer or not, will receive a response.

    ill check back tomorrow for some responses. i truly want to see if ANYONE can come up with ANY realistic valid reason that the "rich", or anyone who is actually paying federal taxes, should be paying more federal taxes.

    link to this page. send your friends, co-workers, family, politicians, enemies, anyone you can to this page and discussion. let them know that the comment they want to respond to is approximately comment #685.

    see you tomorrow

    January 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
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