Can we all pay taxes at the Romney rate? Why’s Mitt hiding his tax returns?

Republican presidential frontrunner and multi-multi-millionaire or billionaire Mitt Romney is now saying he might release a tax return for one tax year in April, after the race for the Republican nomination is decided, but not before the primary elections which he hopes to win in South Carolina, Florida, and other states. What’s he hiding?

If there’s nothing to hide, he should release his tax returns immediately as other candidates have done, and as President Obama has done.

In a statement on Tuesday, Romney conceded that the effective rate of tax he pays on his enormous income is “probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything.” Probably? Closer to? So it could be less than 15%? Maybe a lot less than 15 percent?

President Obama and his wife pay an effective tax rate of over 26% on income of $1.7 million, which includes a $400,000 presidential salary. Most of their other income is book royalties. Vice-President Biden and his wife paid an effective tax rate of 23% on income of $379,000.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The top marginal income tax rate for individuals is currently only 35% thanks to the so-called Bush tax cuts which are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Millions of middle-class American households pay federal income tax at an effective rate in excess of 15%.

How much income did Mitt Romney and his wife report? Tens of millions? Hundreds of millions? How much tax did the Romneys pay? We don’t know. And Mitt isn’t going to tell us.

Romney did tell us however that he earns some income from “speaker’s fees, but not very much.” Federal Election Commission disclosure forms show that he earned $374,000 in speaker fees from February 2010 to February 2011. Apparently that’s “not very much” to a man of Romney’s wealth and income.

Romney’s disclosure highlights the fact that much of the middle class in America actually pays income and payroll taxes at a higher rate than the top 1%, a fact previously noted by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who noted that his secretary pays a higher effective rate of tax than he does.

If Mitt Romney becomes the Republican nominee for president, which seems very likely at this time, he will truly and in every sense be the candidate of the top 1%, and he has indicated that he will serve their interests by keeping their tax rates lower than those of the middle class. But thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the 1% will be able to make unlimited anonymous contributions to Super-PAC’s that will craft and present a different media image to voters.

Romney and his fellow 1%-ers may be hoping that his tax disclosure made 10 months before the November general election will be forgotten or overshadowed by election day. And thanks to the deluge of Super-PAC spending that everyone expects, they may be right!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal