On the campaign trail in South Carolina, Mitt Romney said he has “paid at least 13 percent” of his income in taxes in the past ten years, the period in which he will not release tax returns. He then accused those (like Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada) demanding he release them of perseverating on matters that are “very small-minded compared to the broad issues we face.”
Romney’s statement is the first since President Barack Obama and other Democrats have raised queries about how little Romney has paid in taxes and whether he has paid any at all.
So far, Romney has only released full tax returns for 2010 and a short summary of those from 2011.
Asked during a trip aboard in July if he had ever paid a tax rate lower than the 13.9 percent he did in 2010, Romney replied that “I haven’t calculated that. I’m happy to go back and look, but my view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law.”
That 13 percent tax rate ”puts him at a much lower rate than most average Americans pay on their salary and wage income,” as Talking Points Memo points out. Romney has previously said that he pays around 15 percent, the tax rate on capital gains.
In South Carolina today, Romney also suggested that he pays “well above 20 percent” of his income in taxes “if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity,” a statement suggesting how he is straining to respond to questions about his taxes: Of course what everyone (including a “vocal chorus of conservatives and Romney supporters,” Talking Points Memo underscores) wants to know is how much Romney has actually paid in taxes, not what he would have if charitable contributions were included.
In a Wednesday night interview on NBC’s “Rock Center,” Ann Romney (while noting that the Romneys “give 10 percent of our income to charity”) said that “the only reason we don’t disclose any more is, you know, we just become a bigger target.”
But all of Romney’s ducking and excuse-mongering are only suggesting, there must be something in those tax returns that he doesn’t want anyone, even his supporters, to see. As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote:
Romney’s all-business/all-family rigidity makes him seem inaccessible. And his tax legerdemain has made him seem shady. As Marc Wolpow, a former Romney employee at Bain Capital, said in a Boston Globe story about Mitt’s 1988 deal with Michael Milken while the junk bond king was under federal investigation: “Mitt, I think, spent his life balanced between fear and greed. He knew that he had to make a lot of money to launch his political career. It’s very hard to make a lot of money without taking some kind of reputational risk along the way.”
What kind of risk that might exactly be remains a matter between Romney and the tax records he remains determined to keep under wraps.
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