Romney Paid 14% in Taxes This Year but Could Have Paid Less

The Atlantic Wire

Mitt Romney has released his 2011 tax return, and it shows he paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent tax rate -- and if he'd taken all the deductions he's allowed, it would have been lower. Romney reported income of $13.7 million and claimed a deduction of $2.25 million in charitable contributions, even though he made slightly more than $4 million in charitable donations. Romney pledged to keep his tax rate above 13 percent earlier this year. Still, the partial deduction is a curious decision, given that Romney said in a January Republican primary debate, "I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don't think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes." He told ABC News in July he wouldn't be "qualified" to be president if he paid more than he owed. Barack Obama paid a tax rate of 20.5 percent this year on an adjusted gross income of $798,674. 

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The Romneys charitable donations amounted to almost 30 percent of their income, a large increase compared to previous years. The campaign says over a 20-year period, the Romneys donated an average of 13.45 percent of their income to charity. At some point, the Romneys paid a higher tax rate. Over the 20-year period, the Romneys' federal effective tax rate was 20.2 percent. In no year did they pay no state or federal taxes.

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We'll be updating as more people sift through the documents. Here are some of the interesting things people are talking about right now:

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  • What Romney could have paid. There's still some confusion over how much Romney's tax rate would have been if he deducted for all his charitable giving. Early guesses were 9.6 percent, then it was pegged at 12.1 percent, according to the Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin and Politico's Ginger Gibson. But The Wall Street Journal says that Romney's effective tax rate would have been about 10.5 percent, according to CPA David Kautter of the Kogod Tax Center at American University.

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  • The Journal points out that Romney's average tax rate from 1990 to 2009, given as 20.2 percent by the campaign, was calculated by adding together the rate he paid every year and dividing by 20. It is not weighted by income. Big money years count the same as less prosperous years, so Romney's effective tax rate over two decades is not necessarily 20.2 percent. Think about it like this: a year when he made, say, $5 million and paid 20 percent in taxes counts the same as a year when he made $25 million and paid 10 percent. The first year would be a tax bill of $1 million and the second would be $2.5 million. If you averaged the rates, Romney would have paid 15 percent. But if you weighted it by income, his tax rate over both years would be 11.7 percent.

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  • Romney had $3.5 million in foreign income, New York's Stefan Becket points out.

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  • Romney made $178,000 in 2011 in speaking feesThe Wall Street Journal points out. That's even though he was running for president, and trying to get as many people as possible to hear him speak.
  • The Ryans made $323,416 in 2011.
  • Ryan uses an inhaler. The health report for Paul Ryan, released at the same time as the tax returns, shows that he has a "previously established diagnosis of airway hypersensitivity occasionally treated with an as needed albuterol inhaler." Ryan also has a history of a herniated disc and a medial meniscus injury in his right knee. Ryan's BMI is 20.
  • Romney is healthy. Mitt Romney's health report reveals he is allergic to penicillin. He takes low-dose aspirin and Lipitor. He lost his appendix in 1965. "He is a vigorous man who takes excellent care of his personal physical health."

  • Romney's resting heart rate is 40, Ryan's is 59. Jogging beats P90X.

  • Speculation about what he might not have paid. Just like when Romney released his 2010 tax returns, the lack of information led to a lot of sleuthing and hypothesizing about what might be in his taxes, people are reading through the lines of the campaign's statement about his taxes. Twitter user @nycsouthpaw wonders just how carefully worded the statement is. The campaign says "In each year during the entire 20-year period, the Romneys owed both state and federal income taxes," but it also says, "During the 20-year period covered by the PWC letter, Gov. and Mrs. Romney paid 100 percent of the taxes that they owed." Southpaw wonders whether this mean the Romneys didn't pay everything they owed in every year, but that it somehow averages out?

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  • Why did he do this? Republican consultant and former Romney '08 adviser Alex Castellanos tells Politico he was shocked Romney decided to release a 20-year summary, after his campaign had already weathered controversy over his tax returns this spring. "This will drag Mitt's taxes back into the debate," he says. "Other Republican operatives have emailed in with a similar reaction," Maggie Haberman writes.
  • I would just like to note that at 3p.m. there will be hundreds -- even thousands -- of English majors reading forms far more complex than the 1040EZ.
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