TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shaviro: Why Won't Romney Release His 2009 Tax Return?


Dan Shaviro (NYU), Why Won't Romney Release His 2009 Tax Return?:

Increasingly, everyone (including Republicans such as George Will, Matthew Dowd, and William Kristol) agrees that the reason for Romney's reluctance to release any pre-2010 tax return might be that what it would show is worse than all the heat he is taking for non-disclosure.

But what could that be?  Well, I certainly don't know either, but here are some salient points:

1) We know from the 2010 tax return, in which he had a net capital loss carryforward from 2009, that he zeroed out his net capital gains - including from carried interest Bain income - in 2009.

2) 2009 was the last year in which he received certain Bain payments as the playout of his "retroactive retirement."

3) It's been hard to understand what benefit he thought he was getting from the Swiss bank account, and there was an IRS amnesty program in 2009 for fraudulent nondisclosure of offshore income.  If he had to come clean in 2009, this might be embarrassing, especially given that there was an iron fist inside the IRS leniency offer (i.e., if you held out, they might get you without any amnesty).

From the first two items above, it may be a reasonable guess that Romney had a lot more gross income in 2009 than 2010 and 2011, yet paid less tax or even zero tax.

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You would think with all of the graft in DC, stock front running, influence pedaling that most of the big politicos would have off shore accounts to stash and hide their plunder.

Posted by: Steve | Jul 17, 2012 7:46:23 AM

Interesting that Paul has bought into and is sharing political mudslinging done "the Chicago way." We currently know more about Romney than we knew about a completely unvetted Obama last election..or, even now. Trump: Romney shouldn't turn over tax records until Obama reveals college transcript

Most presidents can run on their records of accomplishments. It's no surprise that Obama would like to divert attention from that.

Posted by: Woody | Jul 17, 2012 9:18:13 AM

Steve, maybe we should just check their freezers?

Personally, I like the suggested deal that Romney release his tax returns when Obama releases his college & law school records.

Posted by: ColoComment | Jul 17, 2012 9:32:56 AM

The media obsess on Bain while we head to a recession -- The political media’s failure to grasp the import of the economic news is as embarrassing as Obama’s economic policy failure. Both expect the public can be bamboozled by rhetoric.

Posted by: Woody | Jul 17, 2012 9:51:25 AM

Romney should cough these up as soon as BHO coughs up his college transcripts from Occidental & Columbia which would show how deeply a committed Marxist he is.

Posted by: TaxDudeSC | Jul 17, 2012 10:09:34 AM

Bill Clinton never released his medical records, possibly due to drug use. Obama never released his medical records but admitted drug use, and his academic background is murky without any visible records.

Media attention for withholding potentially damaging information applies only to Republican candidates, not to Democrats. With the Internet's democratization of news reporting, this game is no longer one-sided.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Jul 17, 2012 11:00:37 AM

Did you know that Romney may have committed a felony?!

Impossible to Know....

... Then over the weekend, Obama’s official campaign blog took it one step further. Citing a recent article about Mitt Romney’s offshore investments, the Obama campaign blog asks, “Is any of this actually illegal?” Then it goes on to say, “It appears not, but it’s impossible to know for sure because Romney refuses to release enough information to let people make their own judgments.” It’s impossible to know whether or not Mitt Romney is a criminal? Then Dear Ruler himself uses those same words … “impossible to know” … when asked about charges that Romney may be a criminal.

This is Chicago thug-style campaigning .. but that’s the way Obama rolls. Remember, he managed to get himself elected to the U.S. Senate by employing attorneys to dig up the dirt it took to get his opponents to withdraw from the race. Obama is a thug … you may not like it, but that’s the fact, Jack. A Chicago thug. It’s not like he learned his politics in Lubbock, Texas.

You can make virtually ANY charge against a political opponent if you just use the “impossible to know” tag. Drop a dark suggestion that your opponent just finished with a drug rehab program. Just a suggestion. Then, when the media asks you if you really think that your opponent has a drug problem and just finished rehab .. just say something like “Well, that’s impossible to know unless my opponent releases all of his medical records.” It’s sleazy politics at it’s best – and Obama is sleazy enough to use it. ...

When asked about it, chief campaign propagandist David Axelrod says, Well we never said that Mitt Romney is a felon but simply implied that he might have committed a felony. Good grief.

Well, if Romeny had committed a felony, could he be best buddies with Obama? "It's impossible to know." -- Top Ten Felons, Fugitives, and Shady Characters in Obama's Life

Posted by: Woody | Jul 17, 2012 11:21:12 AM

I am wondering what it was like in Russia in the early 1900s or in Germany in the thirties. I'm betting this isn't far off. Chairman Obama just violated the Constitution in the grossest terms by shutting down welfare accountability and is selective on which laws to follow and which ones to break. What are we seeing here? With no media accountability, he can and does what he wants.

Posted by: Shotgun | Jul 17, 2012 1:52:11 PM

Here's an authoritative source that was missed:

Why Won't Mitt Romney Release His Pre-2010 Tax Returns? -- The Village Voice

Hey, Mitt:

We have to talk.

I know you have a lot going on, and I know you don't have much time for me anymore: after all, I'm just your lowly, pre-2010 tax returns, so why bother with me? ....

Now, the Obama campaign is even saying that you might not have "paid any taxes at all" prior to 2010.

They're saying that nobody knows for sure because you won't release me, Mitt. ....

Posted by: Woody | Jul 17, 2012 8:39:33 PM

I demand Shaviro's tax returns (20 years)!

Posted by: michael livingston | Jul 18, 2012 4:24:52 AM

Judging from the drivel in many of these comments, and some yesterday, too, I'm guessing that the moderator is on vacation.

Posted by: eli | Jul 18, 2012 5:25:55 AM

Michael Livingston, what secrets or illegal activities is Dan Shaviro hiding by not releasing twenty years of his tax returns? It's "impossible to know" until he does.

Posted by: Woody | Jul 18, 2012 6:00:34 AM

Obama won a primary and a general election after in each case sealed divorce records of his opponent were leaked and published. Why not just do the same with Romney’s tax returns?

Posted by: AMTbuff | Jul 18, 2012 10:01:24 AM