If the Romney campaign thought that their Vice-Presidential selection would take the heat off their candidate’s refusal to release more than two years of tax returns, that was laid to rest when Bob Schieffer asked Paul Ryan last night on 60 Minutes how many years of tax returns he had to give to the campaign. “Several years” was the reply, followed by the statement that he would only release two years, keeping in line with the top of the ticket. Ryan added that this is not what voters care about on the campaign trail.
That may be the case, although the discrepancy between what the Romney campaign asked of their Vice Presidential candidates and what the Presidential nominee sees fit to deliver to the public for vetting cannot be overlooked. But where this all connects together, at the level of policy, is when you look at the impact of Paul Ryan’s tax plan on Mitt Romney’s taxes.
Under Paul Ryan’s plan, Mitt Romney wouldn’t pay any taxes for the next ten years — or any of the years after that. Now, do I know that that’s true. Yes, I’m certain.
Well, maybe not quite nothing. In 2010 — the only year we have seen a full return from him — Romney would have paid an effective tax rate of around 0.82 percent under the Ryan plan, rather than the 13.9 percent he actually did. How would someone with more than $21 million in taxable income pay so little? Well, the vast majority of Romney’s income came from capital gains, interest, and dividends. And Ryan wants to eliminate all taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends [...]
Romney did earn $593,996 in author and speaking fees in 2010 that would still be taxed under the Ryan plan. Just not much. Ryan would cut the top marginal tax rate from 35 to 25 percent and get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax — saving Romney another $292,389 or so on his 2010 tax bill. Now, Romney would still owe self-employment taxes on his author and speaking fees, but that only amounts to $29,151. Add it all up, and Romney would have paid $177,650 out of a taxable income of $21,661,344, for a cool effective rate of 0.82 percent.
Romney has not called for the elimination of capital gains and dividend taxes, though he would eliminate them for couples making less than $150,000 and individuals making less than $100,000 in income. And in last night’s interview, Romney said that “the highest-income people should pay the greatest share of taxes.” But Romney’s across-the-board reduction of tax rates would have a similar effect of lowering the tax burden on the rich and raising them on the middle class, because the deductions are simply not there to do anything else and remain deficit-neutral. Romney’s sleight-of-hand here is to say that “the highest-income people will continue to pay the largest share of the tax burden,” which they could still do while getting a massive tax cut.
Then there was this awkward moment:
At one point, Ryan interrupted the man who had just made him the presumptive vice presidential nominee. “What we are saying is: Take away the tax shelters that are uniquely enjoyed by people in the top tax brackets,” he said, “so they can’t shelter as much money from taxation, so that you can lower tax rates for everybody to make America more competitive.”
Of course, what we already know of Romney’s taxes is that he’s sheltered plenty of money, in addition to agreeing to the massive “Son of Boss” tax shelter for Marriott when he headed their audit committee. So he might have something to say about taking away those tax shelters.
The larger point is that the conversation will not change to the extent Romney wanted it. He’ll still face questions on his personal tax situation through to the election, I would imagine.