Mitt Romney paid $1.9 million in taxes on $13.69 million in income in 2011, most of it from his investments, for an effective rate of 14.1 percent, according to hundreds of pages he released Friday in a move to quiet political controversy over his personal finances.
The Republican presidential nominee could have paid less in taxes, but he engineered his 2011 returns to overpay the government to ensure that his effective tax rate would “conform” with his statement last month that he had paid at least 13 percent, according to his trustee, R. Bradford Malt.
Romney did that by not taking full advantage of his charitable deductions. In their joint return, he and his wife, Ann, listed $4.02 million in donations to charity last year — nearly 30 percent of their income — which substantially reduced their tax obligation. They claimed a deduction for only $2.25 million of those contributions.
Had the Romneys deducted all of their charitable donations, they would have paid about $467,000 less in taxes for an effective rate of 10.55 percent, according to an analysis by Rebecca Wilkins, a tax lawyer with the Citizens for Tax Justice. Romney can amend his returns at any point over the next three years to take advantage of the potential deductions.
If the Romneys had not taken any charitable deductions, their rate would have been 18.8 percent, said Wilkins, who studied the returns and used accounting software to determine their effective rates.
Friday’s disclosures followed months of political pressure on Romney, one of the richest Americans ever to win a major party’s nomination, to reveal more information about his personal fortune, which is estimated at $190 million to $250 million.
This comes at the end of a turbulent week for Romney’s campaign during which a leaked video showed the candidate, at a private fundraiser in May, dismissing the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes. He said they were like “victims” and feel entitled to government handouts. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he said.
Although Romney made good on his promise to release two years’ worth of tax returns — he released his 2010 filings in January — the disclosures are unlikely to silence his critics, including President Obama and his allies.
Romney’s 379-page 2011 returns show that he earned $6.8 million from capital gains and $3.6 million in interest. Romney earned about $190,000 in author and speaking fees, as well as $260,390 for sitting on the board of Marriott International.
None of his income was from wages. Capital gains are taxed at a flat rate of 15 percent, substantially lower than the 35 percent rate typically levied on the wages of those with the highest incomes.
Fred Goldberg, a former Internal Revenue Service commissioner, said in a statement released by Romney’s campaign that the couple “fully satisfied their responsibilities as taxpayers.”
“There is no indication or suggestion of any tax-motivated or aggressive tax planning activities,” Goldberg said.
In 2010, Romney earned $21.7 million and paid $3 million in taxes, for an effective rate of 13.9 percent.
Romney’s 2011 returns are substantially different from the estimate his campaign provided in January. The estimate reported that he earned $20.9 million in 2011 and would pay $3.2 million in taxes, for an effective rate of 15.4 percent. Campaign spokeswoman Michele Davis said the difference was because the couple’s income varies “significantly from year to year, depending primarily on what investments are sold and how much they have appreciated or depreciated.” As a result of the high estimate, Romney overpaid his 2011 taxes and will apply the overpayment to his 2012 taxes, the campaign said.
Davis added that the couple filed for an extension, as they had in prior years, because not all of their investment information was available by the April 15 deadline. She said, however, that all taxes owed for 2011 were paid by April 15 and that the couple filed their returns on Friday.
Romney also released a summary of his effective tax rates between 1990 and 2009, reporting that his average annual rate was 20.2 percent and that he never paid less than 13.66 percent. But the summary does not detail the size of Romney’s income and the amount of taxes during those years. The letter, produced by preparer PricewaterhouseCoopers, provides no information about how his investments fared during 2008 and 2009, a time of great upheaval in global markets and steep losses for most investors.
Obama and other Democrats have used Romney’s reluctance to release more financial information as evidence that the candidate has been excessively secretive about the fortune he amassed as founder and chief executive of Bain Capital, a private equity firm.