Mitt Romney: I Never Paid Less Than 13 Percent In Taxes

After choosing to not respond to the charges made by Harry Reid for about two weeks now, Mitt Romney directly addressed allegations by the Senate Majority Leader, so far unsupported by any independent evidence, Mitt Romney responded today by essentially staying that Reid is lying:

Mitt Romney said Thursday that he has paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes every year.

“I never paid less than 13 percent,” Romney said at a press conference in Greer, S.C. “I think the most recent year is 13.6 percent.”

Romney said that after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused him of not having paid taxes, he went back and checked the rate he paid. Romney said that between taxes and charitable contributions, he gave up over 20 percent of his income annually.

“I just have to say given the challenges that America faces, 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear. … the fascination with taxes I pay, I find to be very small-minded compared with the challenges we face,” Romney said.

Here’s the video:

People will believe or disbelieve this as they choose, of course, but basically we have a situation where either Harry Reid is lying, or Mitt Romney is. Given that I find Harry Reid’s story completely implausible, for the reasons I’ve discussed before, I’m putting my money on Harry being liar.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, Taxes, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Alex Knapp says:

    You know, there is one way he could settle it….

    (I’m actually less interested in his rate and more interested in his 2009 returns. That’s the big one.)

  2. Rob in CT says:

    If that’s the case, I simply don’t understand the refusal to release the returns. The 2010 return he released had him at 13.9%. Nobody is going to make a big deal over the difference between 13 and 14 percent. I will certainly argue that 13-14% is too low, but that’s no different than a discussion of the 2010 return.

    Basically, Romney is saying “the rest of them look like 2010. Trust me. No, you can’t see them.”

    Which, again, is his right. And it’s the right of others to find that evasive and ding him for it.

  3. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    People will believe or disbelieve this as they choose, of course, but basically we have a situation where either Harry Reid is lying, or Mitt Romney is. Given that I find Harry Reid’s story completely implausible, for the reasons I’ve discussed before, I’m putting my money on Harry being liar.

    Considering how easy and frequently Romney is lying about Obama, I think it just comes naturally to him.

    What Romney should do is release 20 years of tax returns and really show what a big liar Reid is, I bet doing so would deliver a mortal blow to the Democratic Party!

  4. Septimius says:

    Given that I find Harry Reid’s story completely implausible, for the reasons I’ve discussed before, I’m putting my money on Harry being liar.

    That faint sound you hear is heads exploding all across OTB land.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    Damn, he forgot to release his returns … again.

    “Just trust me, I’m a Republican.”

  6. Curtis says:

    Well, neither might be lying. Reid could have a source who was wrong.

    This whole thing is stupid. Under Ryan’s plan, Romney would be paying well less than 1% of his income in federal income taxes.

    Let that last sentence sink in a bit.

  7. sam says:

    @Doug

    Uh, you do realize, I hope, that both could be lying. And I also hope that you can find the weasel in this:

    Mitt Romney said Thursday that he has paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes every year.

  8. Nikki says:

    Mitt Romney responded today by essentially staying that Reid is lying

    And the Obama campaign responded with “Ok, prove it.”

    And now I believe that Mitt Romney will never release his tax returns. He’s banking on the media and all of his supporters turning the 13% into “the gospel truth.”

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    @Alex Knapp: Your right, it’s the 2009 returns that are the problem. Think amnesty on foreign funds!

  10. David M says:

    @Alex Knapp:
    Yes, the 2009 return is important, but the earlier years might shed some light on his IRA as well. Also, 13% by itself doesn’t really mean much without seeing the returns and which tax shelters were used.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    Well, if Mitt Romney says it, that’s good enough for me! Mitt Romney’s word is his bond, it’s solid as oak — if he tells you something, it’s as good as money in the bank.

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    Doug yesterday re the Voter ID lawsuit: “Since I don’t know the facts of the matter, or the relevant Ohio law on the subject, I am not going to issue a blanket condemnation based merely on facts that wr provided me.”

    Doug today: “People will believe or disbelieve this as they choose, of course, but basically we have a situation where either Harry Reid is lying, or Mitt Romney is. Given that I find Harry Reid’s story completely implausible, for the reasons I’ve discussed before, I’m putting my money on Harry being liar.”

    Huh. That determination not to issue blanket condemnations without knowing all relevant facts sure didn’t last long, did it….?

  13. EddieInCA says:

    Again, like Ann Romney last night, Mitt carefully avoided the phrase “Income Taxes”.

    They both say they paid “Taxes”.

    Of course they paid sales taxes, property taxes, (some) capital gains taxes, carried interest, etc.

    “Income Taxes”? Maybe not.

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @EddieInCA:

    And considering that he DID pay sales taxes, property taxes, etc., and still only gets to 13%, you really have to wonder how little in income taxes he did pay.

    Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Wow, this really is a dumb move by Romney. Or naive and ignorant. Or all of the above. Doesn’t he realize that now the media-Democrat complex simply will continue hounding and hounding him about releasing his tax returns, thereby to prove that he’s not lying about the 13% effective rate? Geez. Catch a cluestick, Romney.

    In any event, we’re not going to see the returns. For the simple and obvious reason that something in there is so politically toxic it must from Romney’s perspective be suppressed.

  16. stonetools says:

    Doug, are you seriously taking him at his word? I’m beginning to think he has retained you as counsel.

    Mitt Romney is a person who has off shore tax shelters, refuses to release his tax returns, and has been shown to lie or flipflop on issues again, and again, and again.Heck in past couple of weeks he has lied repeatedly about welfare and Medicare. At least one journalist wonders whether he ever tells the truth.

    Harry Reid may not be the nicest guy in the world. But compared to Mitt he is a model of honesty.There is no way that any objective fact finder would take Romney’s word over Reid’s.
    Actually, an objective fact finder would demand that the only person who controls the best evidence on the issue turn over the evidence, or else face an adverse inference instruction.

  17. stonetools says:

    Heh, I just watched the video. He says ” Over the past ten years (2002-2012).
    Harry Reid’s claim concerns his time at Bain ( 1984-2001) . That was pretty damn slick.

    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has what he says is an informed explanation for why Mitt Romney refuses to release additional tax returns. According a Bain investor, Reid charged, Romney didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.

    Kudos, Mitt-good try but no cigar. I’m betting Harry Reid will be coming back to point this out within 24 hours.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    So if we take Romney at his word…and it’s not his tax rate that is making him scared to death of releasing his tax returns….what is it then????

  19. Nikki says:
  20. @Alex Knapp: Curious: if he had negative net income in 2009, as he quite probably did, do you think he should have had to pay taxes anyway? If not, why would those returns be specially interesting?

  21. rudderpedals says:

    @Megan McArdle: Do you mean negative Adjusted Gross Income?

  22. David M says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    2009 is also an issue because of the amnesty for foreign accounts.

  23. Lib Cap says:

    You have my word on it.

    If I’m lying, may lightning hit my mother. (“Good luck, Mom!”)

    Sincerly,

    Mitt “Joe Izuzu” Romney

  24. C. Clavin says:

    And on top of Romney’s taxes…what’s with Ryan requesting stimulus funds…and now claiming he didn’t???
    Can this campaign tell the truth about any-f’ing-thing????

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: Wasn’t Romney’s tenure at Bain 1984 – TBD? But good catch.

  26. @David M: Yeah, I was more worried about that before several lawyers I trust said it was pretty unlikely–not because they necessarily think Romney was a good guy, but because it would be phenomenally stupid, in a way that he doesn’t seem to be stupid. AFAIK, all the tax lawyers who’ve been contacted by the media said the same: possible, but unlikely, because people who are hiding assets tend to have a much lower profile than Mitt Romney.

  27. I scratch my head at the way Romney handles this. It dose not seem sensible. If he doesn’t tell us about years X, Y, and Z that’s one thing. If he releases them, that’s another.

    What does it mean when he doesn’t release them, but just makes some claim about what’s in them?

    It is a weird middle road. Does he have to “put up, or shut up” now?

    Doug thinks not, because Mitt is credible.

  28. bill says:

    if all the obama camp has to run on is snooping through romney’s taxes they must be in trouble. they should just run on their record the past 3+ yrs……

  29. @bill:

    Dude, Romney is losing.

    Maybe not by a huge margin, but he’s losing. You’d think that if the taxes were in any way a positive, he’d be standing there with copies and handing them out himself.

    I think the Obama team deduces that if Romney isn’t doing that, then asking for them is nothing but gravy for them.

  30. EddieInCA says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    Again… you answer your own question. If there is no “there” there, why take the political hit?

    I’d love to know what you think about what might be in there that is so toxic?

  31. george says:

    So long as he just ignored Reid’s claim, the ball was in Reid’s court – it was an unsubstantiated accusation. But now that Romney’s made his own statement, he more or less has to release his forms. There’s a huge difference between just ignoring a random accusation, and making a direct statement.

    Its going to look very bad for Romney if he now doesn’t release his forms. Not because what’s in them is going to surprise anyone, but because if he doesn’t he’s going to be seen as someone who makes claims they won’t back up.

  32. Simple. You can´t run for President of The United States while having run offshore accounts in fiscal havens. Until now, every politician that I knew that had accounts in Swiss banks and on offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands were disgraced politicians being accused of corruption and graft.

  33. MarkedMan says:

    So, just to sum up:

    1) Reid said he had a source that told him that “Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years”. Since Reid said it was a Bain investor we can assume this means during Romney’s Bain years (1984-2002). Reid didn’t say he had personal knowledge, he simply ‘repeated’ what the investor told him. Accusing him of lying would be to accuse him of making up the investor.

    2) Romney refuses to release his tax returns for those years, or really, complete returns for any year

    3) Romney said that he paid over 13% (god I wish I only had to pay 13%! I’d be rich!) in ‘taxes’ for the 2002-2011 time period. He didn’t say Federal income taxes. It could include property taxes, sales taxes, state taxes, etc. And of course, we don’t know what kinds of mulligans he is giving himself when he makes that claims.

    4) Because of 2010’s partial tax release, we know that Romney paid a bit over 13% in Fed Inc Tax that year (assuming there are no shenanigans in the unreleased forms). And he says that he has paid that much for the past ten years. But he won’t release those returns. So I think it is safe to assume there is something worse than what is in the partial 2010 taxes in them, from a political point of view.

    5) Mitt Romney’s first campaign commercial of this cycle was an out and out lie (he edited an Obama clip so that it seemed to show Obama say something he had not in fact said). When called on it, his spokesman essentially said that it didn’t matter if it was a lie, they had won just by getting the press to talk about it. So Romney has, well, no credibility. His official campaign position is literally ‘it doesn’t matter if what we say is true as long as we get a net political benefit’)

    6) Doug thinks the big thing here is that Reid might have made up the investor.

    Got it.

  34. anjin-san says:

    My take away is that there is a good chance there is a deal breaker in his taxes. Perhaps amnesty for an overseas account. Certainly nothing intrinsically terrible. Unless of course, you are running for President.

    Refusing to release his taxes in the face of the undoubted harm that position is doing to his campaign makes absolutely no sense. Unless there is a poison pill in them.

  35. David M says:

    As David Simon said, this is a travesty and an embarrassment. It’s also quite sad that Romney is paying a tax rate of 13% on an 8 figure income isn’t the worst thing in these tax returns.

  36. EddieInCA says:

    @David M:

    Here’s David Simon’s words from David M’s link above:

    Can we stand back and pause a short minute to take in the spectacle of a man who wants to be President of The United States, who wants us to seriously regard him as a paragon of the American civic ideal, declaiming proudly and in public that he has paid his taxes at a third of the rate normally associated with gentlemen of his economic benefit.

    Stunning.

    Am I supposed to congratulate this man? Thank him for his good citizenship? Compliment him for being clever enough to arm himself with enough tax lawyers so that he could legally minimize his obligations?

    Thirteen percent. The last time I paid taxes at that rate, I believe I might still have been in college. If not, it was my first couple years as a newspaper reporter. Since then, the paychecks have been just fine, thanks, and I don’t see any reason not to pay at the rate appropriate to my earnings, given that I’m writing the check to the same government that provided the economic environment that allowed for such incomes.

    I can’t get over the absurdity of this moment, honestly: Hey, I never paid less than thirteen percent. I swear. And no, you can’t examine my tax returns in any more detail. But I promise you all, my fellow American citizens, I never once slipped to single digits. I’m just not that kind of guy.

    God.

    This republic is just about over, isn’t it?

  37. OzarkHullbilly says:

    but basically we have a situation where either Harry Reid is lying, or Mitt Romney is. Given that I find Harry Reid’s story completely implausible, for the reasons I’ve discussed before, I’m putting my money on Harry being liar.

    So…. I just want to get this straight, Doug…. You find Harry’s story completely implausible, and therefor you are going to put good money on a pathological liar telling the truth?

    Face slap!

  38. @EddieInCA: Don’t know. His argument—not entirely unfair, given the way his returns are getting picked apart–is that his returns are super complicated, and releasing them is just going to trigger a feeding frenzy in which he has to go through and bat away stupid/tendentious questions about every return. I have, for example, see a tax prof saying “We don’t know whether he’s basing that number off of taxable income or AGI, when we do in fact know it, because we have the damn return, and he’s using the larger number as the denominator.

    Personally, having been told that it’s very unlikely that he had one of the infamous Swiss bank accounts, I now very much doubt that there’s anything in there we don’t already know (he pays not that much in tax). Maybe he took huge losses in 2009 resulting in a very low stated income/tax take, but since demagoguing this really would be exquisite bullshit, I’m not particularly inclined to call for his releasing the return. Nor to defend him from calls for same. I just don’t care much one way or the other.

  39. @Megan McArdle:

    The problem for me, Megan, is that few people are willing to make the general argument necessary to protect Mitt in this particular. You need to say:

    “No one needs a candidate’s tax returns.”

    That’s the only line that justifies this candidate by reaching for a higher rule. The only problem is that in the years since Mitt’s pop released his, voters have gotten really comfortable using those tax returns to form their views. To break tradition is to support “black box” candidates going forward.

  40. (IOW, it seems very situational. Hmm. If someone like George Soros learned that tax returns were no longer required, do you think he might run? Do you think the right would be happy with one partial year from him?)

  41. Rafer Janders says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    Personally, having been told that it’s very unlikely that he had one of the infamous Swiss bank accounts,

    Oh, well. As long as you were told. That’s good enough for me. What A told B was his guess about what was in C’s tax returns should always suffice when we’re deciding if C is qualified to be president.

  42. stonetools says:

    Jim Messina tries to coax Romney to release his returns.

    I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures. Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide. So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more–neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign.

    The Romney campaign has already rejected this.

  43. Rafer Janders says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    His argument—not entirely unfair, given the way his returns are getting picked apart–is that his returns are super complicated, and releasing them is just going to trigger a feeding frenzy in which he has to go through and bat away stupid/tendentious questions about every return.

    Aha, the “trust me, rubes, you’re too stupid to figure this out” defense.

    This is a not entirely unfair argument for a private citizen to make. It is an entirely unfair argument to make when it’s made by a multi-millionaire running for the highest public office in the land and who is asking the country to place its entire future in his hands.

    Imagine this scene at, say, a condo board. The condo board wants the applicant to provide tax returns to assess if he has the financial stability to afford the apartment, and the applicant says well, my returns are super complicated, and releasing them to you is just going to trigger a feeding frenzy in which I’ll have to go through and bat away your stupid/tendentious questions about every return. So no, you don’t get to see them, but you should allow me to buy the apartment anyway.

    No condo board would accept that. And I think the stakes are somewhat higher here.

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    Aargh, co-op board. Stupid lack of caffeine….

  45. Rafer Janders says:

    You know, I don’t often agree with Rod Dreher, but I’ll quote him here:

    “What [David] Simon is getting at is Romney is an extremely rich man who pays significantly less of a percentage of his income in taxes than millions of people who make far less than he does, and he still seems to think he deserves a cookie. I’m sick and tired of him and his wife whining about how people are so mean to them about their taxes.”

  46. stonetools says:

    Let’s see, Dave is willing to take at his word a man who was:

    * for and against abortion rights
    * for and against gay rights
    * for and against gun control
    * for and against the Ryan budget
    * for and against the individual mandate
    * retired from Bain in 1999 AND in 2002
    * paid taxes as a Utah resident from 1999 to 2002, then retroactively decided that he actually resided in Massachusetts during that time

    What’s amazing about that list is that I’m sure its only a partial list of the lies, obfuscations, and flip-flops by Mr. Romney. Yet Doug thinks of Romney as credible. Its amazing how the world looks once you put on those ideological goggles.

  47. anjin-san says:

    Personally, having been told that it’s very unlikely that he had one of the infamous Swiss bank accounts

    Hmm. Back in 2004, I was told that Kerry had claimed he had a magic hat that the CIA gave him would make him invisible in Cambodia.

  48. Rafer Janders says:

    A few months ago, the right wing was up in arms — in arms! — that Barack Obama had supposedly not been “vetted” by the media in the 2008 election and that we didn’t know anything about him (his two memoirs seemingly notwithstanding).

    Now, however, when the media would like to vet Romney by examining his tax returns, which are, after all, not entirely a private affair but are official documents filed with the federal government under penalty of perjury, then vetting is simply “exquisite bullshit”.

    Well, IOIYAR again, it seems.

  49. Socrates says:

    “Given that I find Harry Reid’s story completely implausible, for the reasons I’ve discussed before, I’m putting my money on Harry being liar.”

    It’s more implausible that Romney doesn’t release the taxes and make Reid look like a fool and a liar.

    How do you explain that, hmmmm?

  50. bill says:

    the obama camp really has nothing to run on than nitpicking through someones tax returns? really, is his performance that lackluster the past 3+ yrs?
    this is the same obama who never doled out much to charities until he was told to by his handlers, it’s embarrassing how little he gave towards charity. must be another guy who thinks the gov’t. should operate as a charity?!

  51. anjin-san says:

    Mitt Romney: I Never Paid Less Than 13 Percent In Taxes

    And apparently he feels that was far too much.