Mitt Romney taxes show 'very high' charitable giving tied to Mormon church

Mitt Romney's tax returns reveal that he gives significant amounts of money to charity, partially because of his ties to the Mormon church, whose members are expected to tithe 10 percent.

Brian Snyder/REUTERS
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop in front of a foreclosed home in Lehigh Acres, Fla., Tuesday.

Mitt Romney makes a lot of money. But he and his wife, Ann, also give away a significant amount of their wealth to charity and especially their church.

On Tuesday, when he released his income tax returns, Mr. Romney, a multimillionaire and presidential candidate, revealed that while he reported he made $42.5 million over the past two years, he also gave away $7 million.

While Romney is not thought of as a great philanthropist, his rate of giving is considered high. For example, in 2010 he gave $2.9 million or 14 percent of his income to charity. A typical person gives 2 to 3 percent of their income. And people who made $10 million or more typically gave 6.5 percent to charity, according to Roberton Williams of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

“Romney’s rate is very high,” says Mr. Williams.

Part of the reason for the high rate of giving is Romney’s contributions to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. According to the church, members are expected to tithe 10 percent of their income. In Romney’s case, in 2010 he gave $1.5 million, closer to 7 percent of his adjusted gross income. In 2011, he gave $2.6 million, or 12.4 percent of his income.

But Romney and his wife also gave a considerable amount of money – some $1.5 million in 2010 and $500,000 in 2011 – to other charities, mainly through the Tyler Charitable Foundation, apparently named for a street Romney and his wife lived on in Belmont, Mass. In 2010, the foundation had more than $10 million in assets. 

In 2010, the largest beneficiaries of the Tyler Charitable Foundation included the Mormon Church ($145,000), the Friends of George W. Bush Library ($100,000), and the Center for Treatment of Pediatric MS ($75,000). However, the foundation also made contributions to organizations including the US Equestrian Team Foundation ($10,000), Harvard Business School ($10,000), and Homes for Our Troops ($20,000).

In past years, some of Romney’s contributions have gone to conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Becket Fund (for religious rights legal aid), and the Federalist Society, which seeks reform of the current legal system. In 2007, he wrote a check to Citizens for Limited Taxation, a Marblehead, Mass., organization that strives to limit taxes and the size of government.

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