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?|
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?