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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Graetz: Mitt Romney’s Financial Mysteries

New York Times op-ed:  Mitt Romney’s Financial Mysteries, by Michael J. Graetz (Columbia):

Pressure is mounting for Mitt Romney to release more of his financial records. Mr. Romney has made public only his 2010 tax returns and has said his 2011 documents will be released soon. “That’s all that’s necessary for people to understand something about my finances,” he said recently. He is “simply not enthusiastic,” he also said, about giving the Obama campaign “hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about.” ...

No one should begrudge Mr. Romney or his family the wealth they have earned. But if he has not paid the taxes that apply to transfers of such wealth, this should concern us all. After all, who do you think pays for the shortfall?

(Hat Tip: Dorothy Brown)

Update

If none of Mitt Romney’s accounts were in offshore tax havens, would the presumptive Republican nominee be less competent to handle foreign affairs? If he didn’t have an IRA that could be worth as much as $102 million (perhaps, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of the unusual and aggressive way Bain Capital structured its employees’ personal investments in its deals) would he be less able to deal with retirement policy, Social Security and Medicare?If Romney had decided that his wife’s money losing partial ownership of Rafalka, a horse competing in the London Olympics, was really just part of a wonderful, healthful hobby, and one they could well afford to fund without trying to cut their tax bill, would that make him less qualified to be President? ...

[H]e is either ignorant of the practical functioning (and malfunctioning) of our tax system; hopes the American public is ignorant of it; or has bought into an aggressive approach to tax-compliance that contributes to the tax mess. ...

My take on this after decades of writing about tax planning, legitimate tax shelters, over-the-line tax shelters and out and out tax cheating, is this:  The attitude in some sophisticated circles that folks are chumps (or even negligent) if they don’t structure their affairs to exploit every possible provision of the tax code in ways Congress intended (and didn’t) creates a climate that allows abusive tax shelters to flourish and undermines the functioning of the tax code (which, granted, is plenty dysfunctional on its own.)

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Comments

Romney has been audited by the IRS. As long as the Service and Romney's representatives agreed upon the audit results and there was no criminal action, then that should be the end of speculation like, "We don't know." And, only idiots pay more taxes than the law demands.

Posted by: Woody | Jul 31, 2012 4:05:06 PM

Graetz's demand that Romney disclose all of his personal tax returns and financial records for public scrutiny is infantile and contrary to sound tax administration. The IRS, not the news media, administers the federal tax law in the United States of America. Accordingly, if Romney has underpaid any federal taxes, that is a matter for the IRS alone to correct. And, even worse, Graetz knows that. What a cheap shot Graetz levels at Romney. Graetz should be ashamed of himself.

Posted by: Jake | Jul 31, 2012 5:44:18 PM

Again it is fine and dandy to be aggressive on your tax return, I certainly am but I am not running for office nor am I holding myself out as a law abidding politician who loves america and pays my fair share of taxes. My point being if you want to be president of the US you need to do more than what a person does to be an IRS agent....i.e. have your returns reviewed by the service and follow the tax law strictly...I guess politicans can get away with anything. I don't buy it. the reason he doesn't want to reveal his tax returns for 10 years is he doesn't want to talk about how agressive he has been on his return...is it illegal ...probably no...is it ethical....is it something I want from my president.....maybe ...maybe not but at least be better then IRS agents have to be......

Posted by: Sid | Jul 31, 2012 7:06:28 PM

"The attitude in some sophisticated circles that folks are chumps (or even negligent) if they don’t structure their affairs to exploit every possible provision of the tax code in ways Congress intended (and didn’t) creates a climate that allows abusive tax shelters to flourish and undermines the functioning of the tax code (which, granted, is plenty dysfunctional on its own.)"

I think that attitude exists in most unsophisticated circles too. In fact most anyone who deals with the ineptitude of regulatory agencies, observes the waste in a significant portion of federally created infrastructure, or files a return affected by the dysfunctional portions of the tax code; would consider their investment into the "system" to be a less than optimal benefit to themselves or mankind.

Posted by: Mike | Aug 1, 2012 5:38:48 AM

Sid, you're just spouting the false innuendos of the Obama attack machine against Romney. Any candidate would be crazy to open his full financial records to such opposition to nitpick every deduction, distort the findings, and outright lie about what they claim to see -- especially when your opponent comes from "Chicago values" and "Chicago politics."

Now, Democratic hero Harry Reid is saying that Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years.

Sen. Reid claims that a former Bain Capitol investor, who the Nevada Democrat would not name, called his office about a month ago claiming that Romney “didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.” “Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” Sen. Reid told the Huffington Post. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”

Only idiots fall for these ruses and only dishonest people use them.

Posted by: Woody | Aug 1, 2012 6:11:23 AM

P.S. Today is "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." Let's demand that their cows release their tax returns or accuse them of milking other taxpayers.

Posted by: Woody | Aug 1, 2012 6:16:48 AM

Sorry, one more Obama attack on Romney taxes with false insinautions for the uneducated.

The latest web ad from Barack Obama's campaign goes after Mitt Romney for not releasing more tax returns than he already has. The ad, titled "Mitt Romney's Tax Returns: When Will He Come Clean?," at one point flashes two words onscreen, "FELONS" and "TAX RECORDS." ...Given the title of the ad--and the subject--the ad wants viewers to consider that Mitt Romney might not be releasing more tax returns because, the Obama campaign is suggesting, he might be a felon.

They've accused Romney of everything except being a Marxist, which they reserve for themselves.

Posted by: Woody | Aug 1, 2012 6:33:13 AM

Why does this blog seem to only attract commentators who would be right at home mouth-breathing at Fox Nation? Why doesn't it attract informed commentary from, say, tax professionals...

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 1, 2012 9:01:44 AM