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Romney tax returns: What’s missing in his report?

Pundits, political partisans, and amateur CPA’s are poring over the numbers in Mitt Romney’s tax returns. What’s missing, tax experts say, are the details of Romney’s retirement account from Bain Capital, including investments in offshore accounts in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

By Staff writer / September 22, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters after speaking at a rally in Las Vegas Friday.

Julie Jacobson/AP

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It’s no coincidence that Mitt Romney chose a Friday afternoon to release more information about the income taxes he pays. In Washington, that’s known as “news dump day,” the time when most people are moving into weekend mode and whatever bad news an elected official has to report – usually it’s the White House – is largely ignored.

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Unless, that is, there’s been months of controversy and buildup in a presidential election year and the issue in question gets to the essence of a candidate’s image (if not character).

That’s certainly the case with Mr. Romney’s personal wealth, the “47 percent” of the electorate he seemed to write off in a private meeting with campaign donors, and what’s already known about the tax-sheltered offshore investment accounts that would make him (as Forbes Magazine calculates) “the wealthiest White House occupant ever.”

So it is that the report by Romney’s tax preparer (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) and the friend who manages Mr. and Mrs. Romney’s three trusts remains very much in the news.

RELATED: Five ways Obama and Romney differ on taxes

As pundits, political partisans, and amateur CPA’s pore over the numbers, what’s missing from Romney’s report seems most provocative. The full returns for 2010 and 2011 have been released, but only a statement on the overall federal tax rate paid for the previous 20 years.

What’s missing, tax experts say, are the details of Romney’s retirement account from the Bain Capital investment firm he started and ran for years. Much has been made of Romney’s investments in offshore accounts in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Isn’t that a way of avoiding taxes, critics ask?

No, says the Romney campaign in a “frequently asked questions” site about the 2011 return released Friday:

“The investments by the blind trusts in funds established in the Cayman Islands or other jurisdictions are taxed in the very same way they would be if the shares were held in the US rather than through a Cayman fund. No taxes are evaded or reduced. These funds are all registered with the IRS and report all income to investors and the IRS, just like domestic funds. Whether in Bermuda or Boston or elsewhere, there is no difference in how they are taxed.”

Well, maybe.

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