Mitt Romney released his tax returns for 2011 on Friday afternoon, reporting nearly $2 million in owed taxes on $13.7 million in income, a 14.1% effective rate. The returns showed that he gave a hefty $4 million to charity, but only claimed a deduction on a little more than half of that.
Why would Romney, who wants to cut taxes, pay more than he actually owed? Well, earlier this year, when Democrats and the media were calling for him to release several years of tax returns (rather than just those from 2010), the GOP candidate said that he’d never paid less than 13% in 10 years. So in order to stay consistent, Romney didn’t deduct as much as he could have on his 2011 taxes. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it is slightly awkward because Romney also said earlier this year that “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.” Oops.
Still, how much is anyone really going to criticize a guy for giving nearly a third of his income to charity? In fact, Romney may be practicing what his party preaches. Republicans’ response to tax proposals like the Buffett rule, which would impose a minimum rate on those making more than $1 million a year, has often been to tell rich people who want higher tax rates to volunteer more money to the IRS. That’s pretty much what Romney just did.
His method for doing it is interesting, though: As the New York Times‘ Annie Lowrey points out, President Obama has proposed limiting the charitable deduction for the super wealthy, which in the past has been opposed by Republicans and many Democrats, as well as most charities. But I think Republicans would point out that key in all this is that Romney limited his deduction voluntarily.
In addition to the full 2011 returns, the Romney campaign Friday also released a letter from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers summarizing Romney’s tax bill over the last 20 years. From 1990-2009, the letter states, Romney’s average annual effective federal tax rate was 20.2%. The lowest rate he paid was 13.7% and he gave 13.5% of his annual income to charity on average.
The letter puts to bed one pervasive rumor, spread by the irresponsible hearsay of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that Romney paid nothing in taxes in the recent past. But without releasing full documentation of his past returns, Romney will likely face continued speculation about his use of overseas tax shelters and pressure from Democrats to disclose returns from 2009 and before.
Along with the tax information, Romney’s campaign provided an effusive physician’s note calling Romney a “vigorous man” with “reserves of strength, energy and stamina that provide him with the ability to meet unexpected demands” who “looks years younger than his age.” At least that much is settled.
You can read all of Romney’s tax disclosures and doctors’ mash notes here.