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Tue Jul 17, 2012, 05:46 PM

Bloomberg Business Week: What's Romney Hiding in His Tax Returns? (Paid No Taxes in 2009?) [View all]


What's Romney Hiding in His Tax Returns?

Posted by: Joshua Green on July 17, 2012

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Last night I had dinner with some (non-Bain) private equity executives, and I took the opportunity to quiz them on the topic and test my own theories about Romney’s tax returns. Let me emphasize that I have no idea what is in those returns, and neither did anyone I spoke with. What follows is unfounded, though not implausible, speculation. The most intriguing scenario that emerged about what could be lurking in those returns is as follows:

When the stock market collapsed in 2008, the wealthiest investors fared worse than everyone else. (See, for instance, this Merrill Lynch study.) The “ultra-rich”—those with fortunes of more than $30 million—fared worst of all, losing on average about 25 percent of their net worth. “There was really nowhere to hide as an investor in 2008,” Merrill Lynch’s president of global wealth management pointed out in 2009. “No region ended the year unscathed.”

As a member of the ultra-rich, Romney probably wasn’t spared major losses. 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. If true, this would be politically deadly for him. Even assuming that his return was thoroughly clean and legal—a safe assumption, it seems to me—the fallout would dwarf the controversy that attended the news that Romney had paid a tax rate of just 14 percent in 2010 and that estimated he’d pay a similar rate in 2011.

The “zero tax in 2009” theory—again, this is sheer speculation—gains further sustenance when you consider it’s the only year for which nobody knows anything about Romney’s taxes. He’s revealed what’s in his 2010 and 2011 returns, and he reportedly submitted 20-some years’ worth of returns to the McCain campaign when he was being vetted for vice president in 2008. Steve Schmidt, McCain’s chief strategist in that campaign, said on MSNBC last night that while he didn’t examine Romney’s returns himself, nothing that McCain’s vetters found in them disqualified Romney from consideration.


Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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Reply Bloomberg Business Week: What's Romney Hiding in His Tax Returns? (Paid No Taxes in 2009?) [View all]
Hissyspit Jul 2012 OP
Quixote1818 Jul 2012 #1
Ruby the Liberal Jul 2012 #4
DefenseLawyer Jul 2012 #2
Ruby the Liberal Jul 2012 #3
malaise Jul 2012 #5