Romney says his effective tax rate is 15%
January 17th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
3 years ago

Romney says his effective tax rate is 15%

Florence, South Carolina (CNN) – Mitt Romney said Tuesday he pays roughly a 15% effective tax rate on his income - an acknowledgment that the multi-millionaire pays a smaller percentage of taxes on his income than many middle-income Americans.

"It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything," Romney told reporters when asked about his effective tax rate. "The last ten years my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past rather than ordinary income or rather than earned annual income."

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The information came as his opponents ratcheted up pressure on the GOP front-runner to release his tax returns in a debate Monday night – a disclosure that is not required by law and one Romney has been reluctant to make. Some Americans of far more modest means pay a 15% marginal tax rate on income, while the highest tax bracket tops out at a 35% marginal rate. Because Romney's income comes primarily from investments, it is taxed at a much lower rate.

The candidate, a former chief of private equity firm Bain Capital, went a step further Tuesday and committed to releasing his tax returns in April if he were to become the GOP nominee.

"We'll wait until the tax returns for the most recent year are completed, then release them," he said.

Romney said he had donated the "little bit of income" he earned from his book, "No Apologies," and said occasionally he had been paid fees to speak at events.

The candidate was also elaborated on his views on super PACs, independent political action committees that can raise unlimited funds to advertise on behalf of a candidate. A campaign cannot share strategy with a super PAC.

Romney said he had both encouraged and raised money for his super PAC, and said both former Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had done so as well. He added that although he did not like the existence of super PACs, he would not "disadvantage" his campaign by not taking advantage of the process.

"I wish that law were not as it is. I wish we could just raise money for our campaigns instead of having to create super PACs," Romney said. "I think the whole idea of these PACs becoming larger than the campaigns themselves is a very bad idea."

Gingrich has faulted Romney for failing to publicly denounce attack ads aired by a super PAC supportive of Romney's candidacy, Restore Our Future.

In the press conference, Romney did defend some of the charges made against other candidates by Restore Our Future, including a dig at Gingrich for ethics violations and for his participation with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a climate change awareness initiative, and an ad that charged Santorum supported allowing felons to vote.

"I hear that Rick Santorum is very animated that the super PAC ad says that he is in favor of felons voting, well he is!" Romney said. "What's he missing? That's his position."

The press conference was not without several light moments. After walking to the microphone, Romney first called on his wife, Ann, who had been talking with reporters.

"Where'd the skinny jeans go?" she asked her husband, who did not answer the question.

Romney also weighed in on a campaign commercial aired by Comedy Central comedian and host Stephen Colbert. The ad jokingly calls Romney a "serial killer."

The candidate said he had not seen the ad but admitted of Colbert: "he has a tradition of being able to touch my funny bone."

CNNMoney's Charles Riley contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Taxes
soundoff (194 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    ben684, purchasing stocks IS a form of gambling, because there is always risk associated with investing. Your attempts at a "historical" viewpoint fail to take into account what companies do with the money the investors hand over to them: what do you think they are doing, playing with fake money? History is replete with examples of companies betting and losing on investments: I would have thought Jon Corzine's recent problems would provide you with a fairly vivid example.

    January 17, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. Former Republican, now an Independent

    What a crook! That is the tax rate I paid last year on a retirement income of about 24k. And this man wants to cut taxes on the wealthy even more?????

    January 17, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. cmcle

    Andy says: "If your solution is to raise capital gains rates then THINK. Who are you affecting. You destroy investment, you destroy business, you destroy your pensions, your own retirement."

    Sure Andy, let's think. Let's say Romney made $10 million in capital gains last year. He paid 15%, which is $1.5 million in taxes, so he netted $8.5 million.

    Now let's say he earned the same amount, $10 million, but paid 35% (the former rate, before Bush dropped it to 15%). That's $3.5 million in taxes, so he netted $6.5 million.

    That's a big difference, but he still netted $6.5 million. What's the alternative? Would he refuse to invest his money because the capital gains tax is higher? If so, he would be giving up $6.5 million.

    So if we think about it, the net gain is less when the tax rate is higher. But the alternative, avoiding the tax altogether by not investing, is absurd. It's like saying "I don't like paying federal income tax, so I'm not going to work." In other words, going from making some money, net of taxes, to making no money.

    January 17, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. Bright Future

    Wow, the more I read these posts, the better I understand why poor people remain poor, most of them are just dumb! This, of course plays right into Obama's hand, as he can continue his class warfare, buying votes from the poor by promising to take from the rich, and hand out freebies to those who cannot provide for themselves.

    The only people outraged by this tax debate are the people too dumb to fully understand what is being stated in this article. How can you not understand that people who live mostly on capital gains income will pay a lower tax rate than people who work for a living? That is the way the tax structure is set up, and it benefits EVERYONE!

    The money you have earned, and then invest, you have already paid income taxes on, get it? Then you invest, and IF you make money on your investment, you pay taxes AGAIN, but at a lower rate, to encourage investments.

    It is in Obama's best interest to keep the masses dumb, and just tell half the story in his class warfare. Instead of telling the whole story, he just tells you enough to confuse you, which is soooooo easy. Then he entices you with food stamps and other "free" goodies, and you guys line up.

    Do you guys even know how much rich people give to charities every year? It is in the billions, but please don't think about that in your class warfare? Did you ever consider that rich people would rather keep their taxes low, so they can give more to charities directly, because if they give it through the government, most of it would be gone before it makes it to the needy?

    Please educate yourselves instead of being a dumb pawn in Obama's game, that's the way to true riches and freedom.

    Good luck to y'all.

    January 17, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. sherman

    15% is the law the US LAW. For all of you cying foul shut the hell up and vote. So tired listening to all of you cring about Mitt Romney and 15% as if the man had anything to do with his tax bracket. Clinton/Kennedy all fall in the same category so news flash people SHUT THE HELL UP and go out and vote for the person who can change that...Don't blame the man for being rich, blame the corrupt govt that you all had a hand in putting in to place...

    January 17, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. mack

    mr. santorum set him up really good when he asked him about criminals and voting rights." this is a very important issue in the african american community".

    January 17, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Hey "Bright Future". You make that vapid post of yours, and then you have the gall to call others dumb?

    The tax structure has been set by the wealthy to benefit the wealthy, NOT "everyone". I do not benefit from Romney's 15% tax bracket. And stop calling people dumb because they don't believe in your quaint little economic fairytale.

    You are the centerpiece in a bouqet of [R] idiots if you think we should all buy the "story" that taxes on the rich should be kept low so they can voluntarly give to charities. Really?!!!!

    If Obama is keeping the masses dumb, then you must be his poster-child. I didn't think it was genetically possible for modern humans to be so purposefully stupid.

    January 17, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. Dcoronata

    "15% effective rate", which means it'll probably be a lot less than 15% when everything is said and done.

    January 17, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  9. ELH37

    Any other multi-millionaire want to challnege Buffett's point that they pay less on a percentage basis than most Americans? Please, Mitt. We see exactly how the conficts of interest are effecting your bias on taxation.

    January 17, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  10. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on US!

    "America the land of opportunity to be whatever you want to be. It is all up to the individual and the choices they make."

    You mean like Robot's "opportunity" to be born into a wealthy, powerful, politically-connected family? Yeah, that's really pulling himself up by the old bootstraps.

    And Bright Future, the unfair tax system does not benefit everyone. It places capital above labor which is the reverse of how a healthy economy works.

    January 17, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  11. Matt

    Ordinary Middle Class Americans pay 15% on Capital Gains too....

    So what?

    We are now into villainizing people who save their income and invest it? Welcome to Obama's America.

    If you are successful, you are the enemy.

    No wonder that 66% of people think this country is headed in the wrong direction.

    January 17, 2012 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  12. Matt

    What is funny is that we already have an abysmal savings rate in this country, and now all of the Liberal Know-Nothings who are commenting here want to raise the tax rate on savings!

    They literally want to punish people who save their money.

    Strange. They just want everybody to be poor.

    January 17, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  13. Hark

    DumbasRocks.. Bright Future has you on this one....You would get the same 15% as everyone else when it comes to Cap Gains, so stop wishing, hoping,and whining and get on board. When is it a crime to be succesful in The United States of America?.

    January 17, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  14. T'sah From Virginia

    Really? He said that? I bet it's less than that!!

    Obama 2012

    January 17, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  15. kcr

    15% effective tax rate is after deductions etc., people! Marginal tax rate is the tax bracket you are in. A person in the 35% tax bracket does not pay a 35% effective tax rate, but a lower one. Most people (I prepare hundreds of tax returns) are in the 15% marginal tax bracket, but only pay a 5-7% effective tax rate. 15% is somewhat high.

    January 17, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  16. When the universr stood still

    So? Mittens pays 15% on his millions & i pay 15% on my military pay, does that make us equal? This is why more military people dont support u...

    January 17, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  17. Omari Dice

    “The formula to the American Dream, the American Way or whatever these "job creators" would use as a way to glorify a malignant strain of fake capitalism:

    – Start up a company to gut other companies, destroy jobs before selling it for a huge profit
    – Disavow having anything with that company when it goes out of business because it was gutted so much it had no viable products to sell. It only looked good on paper long enough to be sold.
    – Take your profits for which you worked "very hard" and invest them.
    – Pay 15% or less in taxes, claim you are a job creator, claim you deserve to pay so little in taxes because you worked so hard for it.

    Job creators. Can't live with them, can't sh00t them.”

    January 17, 2012 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  18. Omaha

    A lot of you are forgetting that Romney, Buffet and the 1% are dioing just what we all do; paying the least amount of taxes according to the tax code. Who decides what the tax code is? The president and congress. Not Buffet, not Romney. Was this an issue when Presidnt Obama was running? Do you really want a person in the White House that is ignorant as to how the economy really works? Romney has demonstrated that he has made a lot of money by taking the risk. He could have lost his shirt ya' know. Same with Warren Buffet. It takes money to make money. This is also a battle between the haves and the have nots. Aren't all of us trying to do the best we can to make enough money to live the good life? So when someone does really well, why do we attack them? Is this simple jealousy? This really iin't a campaign issue in that who cares what he earns. Take a look at what Bill Clinton makes for each speaking fee (look it up). If you are unhappy with Romney's effective (not marginal) tax rate: tell your congressman or woman to change the tax code and stop sounding like it's a bad thing to make money. Oh yea, don't forget that he also pays state taxes and probably at the maximum MARGINAL rate.

    January 18, 2012 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  19. Ken

    People aren't as concerned about what Romney pays in taxes as they are what he is worth. This whole discussion is about envy. It's pathetic.

    75% of Americans pay an even lower tax rate than Romney, less than 15%. Is anyone raising cain over that?

    January 18, 2012 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
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