Mitt Romney said in Thursday’s debate that he would release his taxes for the last year and “probably for other years as well,” but only after he secured the Republican nomination.
According to Romney, his taxes “are carefully managed,” and will show “I pay a lot of taxes, I’ve been very successful.”
Romney has said in the past he would eventually release his tax returns, setting April as a target, but has been vague beyond that and Democrats have relentlessly attacked him in recent days to come clean with the most information possible. Asked by CNN moderator John King whether he would follow his father, former presidential candidate George Romney, and release more than a decade of returns, Romney was noncommittal.
“Maybe,” he said, prompting boos and jeers from the audience. “I don’t know how many years I’ll release.”
Asked why South Carolina voters should have to wait to see his returns before they make their decision, Romney cited the prospect of Democratic attacks, saying some people “want to make it very difficult” for his campaign.
“I’m not going to apologize for being successful,” he said. “I’m not suggesting these people are doing that but I know that Democrats will go after me on that basis and that’s why I want to release these things all at the same time. “
The biggest reason Romney’s tax return is so politically explosive is that Romney derives most of his income from investments, which are taxed at a far more favorable rate than regular income. Romney has already said that his tax rate is around 15%, at or lower than the effective tax rate for many middle income Americans.
Newt Gingrich, not coincidentally, released his own tax returns in the middle of Thursday’s debate, which showed he paid $994,708 on an adjusted gross income of $3,142,066 for a 31.6% effective tax rate. And he suggested Romney should do the same soon.
“If there’s anything in there thats going to help us lose the election we should know,” he said. “If there’s nothing in there why not release it?”
In addition, a recent ABC report that Romney has a large amount of money in overseas funds that have been synonymous in the past with tax shelters. As TPM has reported, tax experts are skeptical that Romney necessarily derived any benefit from the arrangement (as his campaign has insisted is the case), but the lack of solid information keeps the question in play.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.