Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Mitt Money Mystery

Issues in the November election are well-defined.  Differences in approaches to solving our problems between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are large. Voters have a clear choice in this election. I understand the choice. Just one thing about the campaign has me baffled.

Why won’t Romney release his last ten, or even five, years of federal income tax returns?

Why the secrecy?
His father started the practice when he ran for president 45 years ago, and every candidate since has released many years of tax records and been quite willing to discuss them.  We already know Romney is a multimillionaire, so that’s not the issue, and it should not be an election issue in any case.  He did release his 2010 return and has promised to release 2011, so why not just go back a few more years as previous candidates have done?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speculated that Romney might have paid no taxes in one or more of the years in question.  He based that on an anonymous “someone” telling him so.  That’s pretty flimsy, and Romney flatly denies it. I don’t buy what Reid is selling in this case.

Neither Reid’s assertion nor any other reasons for Romney’s reluctance made sense to me until just a few days ago when a friend proposed one in a letter to the Detroit Free Press.

Romney may have been among hundreds of Americans who took advantage of a tax amnesty offer, officially the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative, made to those who evaded taxes by not reporting income from foreign bank accounts. In return for disclosing the income and paying some pretty hefty IRS penalties, those who were granted amnesty had their records cleansed and became exempt from criminal prosecution.

Admitting criminal conduct to evade taxes would, of course, be a serious negative for a presidential candidate, whether or not he was granted amnesty.

It’s public knowledge that Romney had a Swiss bank account, which he closed in 2010. He also is known to have had accounts in the Cayman Islands. If his earlier tax records would reveal an amnesty settlement that would be a plausible reason for his refusal to release them.

It also is strange that Romney still has not released his 2011 return, although he said some time ago he would.  It’s possible, although not likely because the penalties were lighter for those who declared earlier, that he waited until 2011 to seek amnesty. This could explain the failure to release the 2011 tax report in a timely manner.

The plan might be to delay releasing the return until just before Election Day. Then news of forgiveness for a criminal act probably would be too late to affect the election in a major way. Romney must have a filing extension to have held off this long. The extension deadline is October 15, just three weeks before the election.

One way or another, could the amnesty situation be the reason for Romney’s tax secrecy?  If not, what logical explanation is there? Can you think of one?


Tom Sightings said...

I understood that he hasn't released his 2011 taxes yet simply because like a lot of people he filed for an extension and his return won't be ready until Oct. 15.

As for the other speculation . . . verrrry interesting. You might be on to something.

But I agree, no matter what he did, unless it was downright illegal, he should have released his returns sooner rather than later -- people might get upset for a couple of days, but then they'd forget. So he took advantage of all the tax breaks that rich people get. You can't blame him too much for that -- blame the politicians who wrote the laws.

Besides, it's still nothing but a diversion from the real issues of unemployment, the economy, the debt, the social issues and foreign issues like Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, etc. -- all of which both candidates SHOULD be talking about but are conspicuously NOT addressing.

Dick Klade said...

Yes, Tom, it is a shame that the candidates are avoiding discussions of the big issues. However, when debate time rolls around, they'll be forced to comment on the important policy questions.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what, but I'm assuming his reluctance to release his returns is because he's hiding something. It may be just the fact that he paid so little in taxes when others pay so much. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's more than that. The only reason people have Swiss or offshore accounts is because they are tax dodging.

TinCanMan said...

Interesting thought on why he won't release his taxes. Excellent post. On why they aren't talking about 'real' issues, I think it has something to do with the almost complete absence of competent journalism. Talking heads of the so-called 'news media' are too busy playing 'neutral pander-monkey' to ask the hard, relevant questions.

JHawk23 said...

The amnesty angle is very interesting, one I hadn't heard before.
As far as Romney's tax returns go, he is within his rights to maintain his privacy, I guess, but I agree it just makes sense for him to release them, especially since by not doing so, he simply fuels suspicion.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Romney has complied with the law. He only has to release 2 years and he has released 2010. He says he will release 2011 October 15. I don't know why he doesn't release them, and I don't care.

John McCain looked at 10-12 years of Romney's returns 4 years ago and says they look fine. I am sure the McCain campaign would have raised holy heck had something been amiss.

I don't know what Reid's problem, but he is a real slimeball himself. How did he get so wealthy when he never worked outside the Senate for most of his adult life?

I won't make my decision to vote or not vote for Romney on this stupid issue. The economy is what matters to me, although the Chicago mob keeps harping on non-essential issues. That is except for Joe Biden who makes politics amusing, although he has hoof and mouth disease.

Please, can't we stick to the real issues?? Dianne

TinCanMan said...

I understand there are voters who place little or no value to transparency, honesty and integrity in their political candidates. I’m not one. For me, they are at the top of a long list of real and important political issues.

Dick Klade said...

This is to clarify what I think about this matter. I have no problem with wealthy Americans taking advantage of the laws to minimize their taxes. I don't think a candidate paying taxes at a rate lower than others should be a personal campaign issue. Correcting that should be a tax fairness policy issue.

However, if any citizens are doing something illegal to evade taxes, that is a whole different matter. That was the point of my post. We may discover that Romney committed illegal acts; if that is so, it darn well is a major issue.

Kay said...

My husband thinks he's got money squirreled away in off shore banks. What really bothers me is hearing him say he doesn't even know where his investments are because it's a blind trust. I guess I don't clearly understand what a blind trust is. Is he just handing money over to a manager who he trusts to do everything while he closes his eyes? Is this how he'll run our government?

joared said...

I expect whatever Romney has done has been legal so there's little point in debating that. Whether or not what he has done is morally and ethically in keeping with his pronouncements about what is appropriate behavior in that regard is quite a different matter.

I think there's little doubt he has something to hide, that he realizes will possibly reveal he's one more hypocrite -- which often seems to turn out to be the case with those who speak loudest and longest about their personal and professional virtues.

I agree that expecting honesty, integrity and transparency in our political candidates should be a given that they automatically embrace so we can focus on issues of state. When the candidate fails to do so, the citizenry protesting are simply performing the responsible action of questioning why?

Yes, we discuss all those issues of state and we demand our candidate be transparent.