Mitt Romney Needs to Increase Transparency

Jack Kovalik, Staff Writer

Throughout history, leaders have been overthrown or accused of misguided behavior because they think they’re entitled to a different set of rules.  Mitt Romney and his millionaire private equity friends have a different set of tax rules for themselves that the average American family doesn’t have access to. Middle class Americans are faced with much higher rates imposed on their earnings.  An American presidential candidate should not be able to hide anything about his past or current finances from the American public. It’s time for Mitt Romney to be fully transparent and release more of his tax returns and explain how he can defend paying only 13 percent. His actions two weeks ago were meant to distract the public from recent blunders, but did little to satisfy those worried about his financial ethics.

Romney, with an estimated net worth of $250 million, has claimed that he’s paid all taxes that are “legally required.” Coming forward with two years of returns doesn’t put him in the clear.

Romney earned his fortune with the company he co-founded in 1984, Bain Capital, a private equity and consulting firm.  Questions continue to haunt the Romney campaign about why Romney is being so silent on his tax history, and not providing full public disclosure.

Romney should prove to the public that he crossed no ethical boundaries with his tax payments, but he’s reluctant to release enough information to take the topic off the list of concerns around his candidacy. If any candidate desires to gain the trust and support of the voting public, he or she must appear willing to expose details about almost all of their personal life, the least of which is what taxes they’ve paid.

Romney also has offshore banking accounts that are causing concern. His Swiss account was reportedly closed in early 2010, but questions remain around this offshore activity. Some wonder if Romney included the income in his Swiss account on earlier U.S. tax returns.

“I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the past 10 years I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that. So I paid taxes every single year,” Romney said on Aug. 16. Most Americans pay at least 10 percent and up to 40 percent in federal income tax. The voting public finds themselves asking, how can a multi-millionaire pay far less than the average American?

The loopholes and “fee waiver” programs that have allowed Romney to declare that his income is long term capital gains as opposed to earned wages need to be corrected.  Long term capital gains tax rates are much lower than ordinary income tax. Sure, Romney has paid technically what he owed, but how is it fair that he can claim his income is capital gains as opposed to ordinary income?

I am not opposed to the American Dream of entrepreneurship and individual success, but the playing field should be more level when it comes to federal income tax obligations.