Saturday, December 7, 2013
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney hemmed and hawed when he was asked during a Monday night debate if he would release his tax returns. By Tuesday, he apparently was feeling the pressure to stop equivocating. He said he will release one year of tax forms around filing time in April.
Mitt Romney won't be doing the Republicans any favors by waiting until April to release his tax information if his tax returns have some unwelcome surprises.
Associated Press file
He also revealed that he pays an effective federal tax rate of close to 15 percent.
That's going to sound like a sweet deal to most Americans, who earn their incomes largely from wages and salaries. Many pay more than an effective rate of 15 percent because income is taxed at graduated rates that rise to 35 percent.
Capital gains, which include profits from the sale of mutual funds, real estate and other investments, are taxed at 15 percent. It is likely that Romney derives much of his income from capital gains.
One year's return, released in April? It still sounds like Romney will be a day late and a dollar short. Figuratively speaking.
Romney needs to do much more and do it much faster. He ought to release several years of returns, right now, so voters have the information.
By April, the Republican nomination may be sealed ... which might be what he's counting on. He won't be doing the Republicans any favors by waiting, though, if his tax returns have some unwelcome surprises.
It is uncomfortable business putting your financial life in the public eye, but that has become the common course in high-stakes political campaigns, and with good reason.
For his part, President Obama released tax returns going back to 2000 when he ran for president and has released his returns each year he's been in the White House.
If we're going to have that honest debate on taxes, it's best to get in the open how tax policy personally affects a candidate.
Releasing Romney's returns will force him to do some explaining, no doubt. But it will come as no secret to voters that he's a wealthy man.
Not that the Obamas have been suffering. The president and his wife reported $5.5 million in adjusted gross income in 2009 and $1.73 million in 2010. Since most of that has been based on salary and book sales rather than investment gains, their effective tax rate has been higher than Romney's 15 percent.
The questions will keep coming for Romney. Far better to give voters information now. Then let them judge how the candidates' tax proposals would affect them and more important, how they would affect the country.