The furor surrounding Mitt Romney's refusal to release more tax returns could very well continue until Election Day. Senator Harry Reid reignited the issue last week when he declared that the former Governor of Massachusetts and presumptive GOP nominee has not paid any taxes in a decade, even asserting that Romney is "hiding something." Reid has remained mum about his source — only to say the individual was a former investor with Bain Capital — but told reporters "I have had a number of people tell me that." The unsubstantiated claim — which has dogged the Romney campaign in the past few weeks — has elicited calls for more tax returns from prominent Democrats and Republicans. The Romney campaign responded to the accusations on the official campaign Web site: "Mitt Romney has scrupulously complied with the U.S. tax code…and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed." Last week Romney answered questions about his tax records with reporters in Nevada. "I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes -- a lot of taxes," he said. "So Harry is simply wrong, and that's why I'm so anxious for him to produce the names of the people who have put this forward. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear the names are people from the White House or the Obama campaign."
Romney earned almost $22 million in 2010 and paid about $3 million to the IRS, an effective rate of 13.9 percent. Romney has not released his complete tax return for 2011 — he filed for an extension — but he estimates a tax-bill of $3.2 million for 2011 at a tax rate of 15.4 percent. Romney was reluctant to release any tax returns but relented earlier this year after Newt Gingrich and other GOP presidential hopefuls attacked Romney for the lack of disclosure. Romney's fortune, which was largely acquired during his tenure at private equity firm Bain Capital, is estimated to be $250 million, which some critics contend is protected in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. Mitt Romney's father George released 12-years worth of his tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said publicly disclosing tax returns are a "tradition" that "has been in place since 1968 of candidates for the president releasing multiple years of their tax returns is an important one."
Does releasing tax returns cause more political damage for wealthy candidates than not releasing them? Steve Forbes, chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media, doesn't think so. He faced similar criticism over his lack of tax disclosure when he ran for president in 1996 and 2000. He did not release any tax information in 1996 but provided a summary of his tax returns to The Washington Post in 2000. The document showed Forbes paid $837,555 in total taxes in 1998 on about $2.5 million in adjusted income.
Forbes says Romney should been have prepared for this tax question since 2007 when he announced his first bid for the presidency.
"I was a little surprised that he was flat-footed during the primaries that he didn't have this all squared away," Forbes says in an interview with The Daily Ticker.
Forbes notes that the best move for Romney now is to "reverse the tables" on President Obama and call for a "data dump": both would release 20-years worth of tax returns, school records and health care records. "Everything" should be included Forbes adds.