- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2012

Seeking to put to rest lingering questions about his tax history, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday released his 2011 tax return as well as a 20-year “summary” of what he has paid to the IRS – a financial history, as told by tax preparers, that appears to punch a hole in Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s claim that the Republican presidential nominee avoided paying federal income taxes for more than a decade.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, the tax preparer for Mr. Romney and wife Ann, said that the the former Massachusetts governor paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent last year and the average of annual “effective federal personal income tax rates” was just over 20 percent between 1990 and 2009. The lowest annual “effective federal personal income tax rate” for the couple was 13.66 percent, the auditors said.

“Over the entire 20-year period, the total federal and state taxes owed plus the total charitable donations deducted represented 38.49 percent of total [annual gross income],” R. Bradford Malt, the lead trustee on the Romneys’ blind trusts, said in a memo posted on the campaign’s website.

President Obama’s presidential campaign and top Democrats on Capitol Hill have called on Mr. Romney to come clean on more of his tax returns, suggesting his Swiss bank accounts and investments in the Cayman Islands show he has something to hide. They also were more than happy to point out that Mr. Romney’s father, George Romney, released 12 years of his tax history when he ran for president about 40 years ago.

Citing an anonymous source, Mr. Reid went the furthest, saying that Mr. Romney had not released his tax returns because “he didn’t pay taxes for 10 years” — a claim that the Nevada Democrat repeated on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Romney countered that over the past ten years he never paid less than 13 percent of his taxable income and that “Harry Reid’s charge is totally false.”

Making certain his money was where his mouth is, Mr. Malt said that the Romneys even limited their deduction for charitable contributions last year in order to “conform with the governor’s statement in August …. that he paid at least 13 percent in each of the last ten years.”

Mr. Reid, though, said that Mr. Romney raised more questions by manipulating one of the two years of tax returns to line up with his public statements.

“That raises the question: What else in those returns has Romney manipulated?” the Nevada Democrat said. “We already know Romney has money in tax havens in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. What we don’t know is why he refuses to be straight with the American people about the choices he’s made in his financial life. When will the American people see the returns he filed before he was running for president?”

The Obama camp, meanwhile, said that the new financial documents released by the Romney camp confirmed what they already knew: “People like Mitt Romney pay a lower tax rate than many middle class families because of a set of complex loopholes and tax shelters only available to those at the top.”

“Yet, Mitt Romney still wants to give mulch-millionaires an additional $250,000 tax cut at the expense of middle class taxpayers who will see their taxes go up,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama deputy campaign manager. “While the tax return for the one year released today continues to mask Romney’s true wealth and income from Bain Capital, leaving the American people in the dark about critical details about his finances, it does confirm that he continues to profit from millions of dollars invested overseas. These types of investments, the use of tax loopholes, and the resort to foreign blocker corporations enabling him to reduce his U.S. tax obligations, all raise basic and still unanswered question – why does Mitt Romney not just release the full returns, instead of the bare summary he has provided of the last 20 years, so voters can make their own judgments about Mitt Romney’s finances?”

Earlier this year, the Romney camp released documents that showed the candidate paid a tax of 13.9 percent in 2010 and an estimated rate of 15.4 percent for 2011, which, according to the return released Friday, proved to be on the high side.

Shortly after the release of the records, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee, blasted out a statement, saying that it is time to move onto the “issues that voters care about” now that the tax records were released.

“While President Obama and Democrats will try to distract voters, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are focused on fixing the economy, getting Americans back to work and ensuring a better future for our children and grandchildren,” Mr. McCain said.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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