The new parlor game for political junkies has become Guess the Contents of Mitt Romney's Tax Returns.
Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek is one of the more-recent entrants to the field with his theory, culled from a dinner with private equity execs, that Romney paid no taxes in 2009. Green posits that Romney probably suffered major losses when the stock market took a nosedive in 2008. "And it's possible he suffered a large enough capital loss that, carried forward and coupled with his various offshore tax havens, he wound up paying no U.S. federal taxes at all in 2009," Green writes, equating that scenario to political death.
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Other theories abound. Like, Romney won't release his returns because he does not want voters to know about additional offshore bank accounts, or any potential politically sensitive investments.
This game could go on for weeks, and most likely will continue as President Obama and a myriad of Republican pundits and politicians call on Romney to release a greater number of tax returns. So far, the public has only seen the 2010 return and an estimated draft of 2011.
So, in the spirit of the participating in the Internet's hive-like mind, National Journal talked to a handful of tax experts about why Romney refuses to release several years of returns. Some thoughts.
ROMNEY WON'T RELEASE THOSE TAX RETURNS BECAUSE:
1) ... HE'S AFRAID HIS WEALTH WILL APPEAR GARISH.
It's easy to paint Romney as an uber-wealthy business leader because, well, he is really rich. In 2010, he made roughly $21.6 million, $12.5 million of that from capital gains and $4.9 million from dividends. Forget the idea of living off a measly 401(k), this guy can live large off his investments. That fact alone pegs him as member of the uber-rich class; according to the Tax Policy Center, 75 percent of the tax savings from low rates on capital gains and dividends went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
Add to this the fact that Romney's 2011 and 2010 returns show that he had a Swiss bank account at one time, as well as an offshore account in the Cayman Islands. The equation makes it clear that Romney does not live like most of us given his extreme wealth--and releasing additional tax returns (especially those not prepared with a presidential campaign in mind) may only make that point in a starker, bolder fashion.
2) ... HE'S AFRAID HIS TIES TO PRIVATE EQUITY WILL BACKFIRE.