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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.

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“The taxes you evade by putting your money in the Caymans aren’t your own personal income taxes, but your offshore investment fund’s corporate income taxes,” writes Timothy Noah in The New Republic. “In other words, the Romneys aren’t evading income taxes by putting their money in the Caymans. The fund they put their money into is evading taxes by parking itself in the Cayman Islands. As a result, that fund (and therefore the Romneys) get to keep more of the profits. Why evade taxes when you can get somebody to do it for you?”

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In any case, Stanford University law school professor and tax law expert Joseph Bankman told the Associated Press, "It's the Bain years we'd really need to know to have a full assessment of his tax strategies." Releasing details for 2010 and 2011, Mr. Bankman said, "only raised these questions, but they can't provide real answers."

Responses to Romney’s tax news were predictably partisan.

Sen. John McCain (who required far more tax information when he was considering Romney to be his running mate in 2008), called it “an incredibly detailed look at his finances.”

“Now that the most recent tax return has been released, it’s time to get back to discussing the issues that voters care about,” Sen. McCain declared.

Democrats aren’t about to let the subject go.

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for President Obama, said the release of Romney's 2011 tax returns "confirms what we already knew – that 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 multimillionaires an additional $250,000 tax cut at the expense of middle-class taxpayers who will see their taxes go up."

Many critics noted the politics behind the Romneys not declaring as much in charitable donations as they might legitimately have in order to be able to say that they paid at least 13 percent in income taxes in each of the last 10 years. Some cynics even noted that Romney could amend his 2011 tax return after the election, seeking a refund for the tax deduction.

Will Romney’s latest tax information put the issue behind him?

The Romney campaign certainly hopes so. But Republican strategist and commentator Alex Castellanos (who worked on Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign) doesn’t think it will.

“This will drag Mitt's taxes back into the debate,” he told Politico. “And there's not many days left. I just can't imagine why they would do this. There are 40 days left and you have now made more of them about Mitt's taxes.”

RELATED: Five ways Obama and Romney differ on taxes

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