Tuesday, November 06, 2012

One last time on Romney's taxes

Huffington has a blog post today with the perhaps too-hopeful title, "Mitt Romney Haunted By Missing Tax Returns As Campaign Draws To Close."

Not to play favorites with regard to the people quoted, since all of them made valuable contributions, but Ed Kleinbard made the point that "Romney's refusal during his campaign to release his past tax returns betrayed a contempt for the electorate and for the democratic process, which relies on voters having the requisite information to make informed decisions."

George Will noted that the returns Romney didn't disclose must have been pretty bad for Romney to prefer the heat from non-disclosure.

Calvin Johnson is cited for his recent article suggesting that Romney illegally undervalued his investments in order to dodge taxes on two enormous trust funds.  This behavior was definitely in penalty territory, and conceivably in fraud territory.

Thomas Krouse is quoted as saying; "This garbage is finally floating to the surface where it can be seen in the light of day...  No matter who wins this election -- how is this going to be stopped? It must be stopped ... With the speed of paperwork, you can bleed America dry through tax evasion practically overnight."

I am quoted as saying that the most interesting thing we saw on the 2010 tax return (prepared in the knowledge that it would be disclosed) "the vast array of offshore investment vehicles that plainly reflected a lot of aggressive tax planning" - and this, in what was likely a non-representative year.

Although it didn't make it into the final piece, the reporters asked me what I would have liked to see the most from Romney's undisclosed tax returns.  I answered:

(1) His adjusted gross income and tax actually paid for the earlier years. By merely disclosing effective rates (defined as tax paid / AGI), Romney managed to hide from public view the question of how much he used tax planning to have low AGI to begin with. I would guess that, in many or most of the undisclosed years, this man with a net worth in excess of $250 million had less AGI, and paid less federal income tax, than the typical senior law firm associate in a big city.

(2) Of even greater interest would be any information revealing how he valued stock that he contributed to his IRA or transferred to his children through trusts. My guess, from the numbers that we know, is that he missed providing honest and accurate values by a factor of at least one thousand percent.

1 comment:

jpe said...

re: children's trusts: he certainly may have transferred assets to the kids' trusts at low valutions that couldn't be reasonably defended, but he may also have continued to transfer assets over the years. Disciplined use of rolling GRATs can easily pass $100MM of value to trusts fbo kids.