Analysis: When disclosure is so simple it's complicated
January 26th, 2012
09:00 PM ET
2 years ago

Analysis: When disclosure is so simple it's complicated

(CNN) - That the Romneys' tax returns are complex is not surprising.

The tax code itself is a complex mess. And those with lots of money and sophisticated investment and tax advisors will often end up with convoluted tax filings that take accounting gurus to deconstruct.

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But what should be fairly simple –it would seem– is that Mitt Romney's tax returns should line up with his financial disclosure forms. He made the financial disclosure forms public in 2007 and 2011 in his two bids for the presidency.

However the Los Angeles Times found 23 funds and partnerships left off the disclosure forms. In response, the Romney team is now putting together what it calls some "minor technical amendments" to the campaign's first financial disclosure forms (see full campaign statement below).

Democrats say that's not enough and are calling for total transparency. In a statement Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called on Romney to "come clean" by "immediately releasing those returns for every year he filed personal financial disclosure forms, as well as the years he was CEO of Bain Capital."

What's fair here? Is it possible to know if these were, as the Romney campaign says, "minor technical" inconsistencies or, as his opponents hint, something more?

Here's just one example of why it seems difficult to know based on just one year's tax returns.

In his 2010 tax returns Romney declared he and Ann Romney own 100% of Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. It is one of the only entities on the tax returns entirely controlled by the two of them. According to documents in the returns, it was founded in Bermuda in 1997. But it doesn't appear on Romney's 2007 or 2011 disclosure forms.

The tax returns show Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors was worth just $10,342. That's a drop in the bucket compared to his net worth - and there are many other Sankaty entities (though these are held by the family trust) that are worth more.

But if this really is one of the only entities wholly owned by the Romney couple (they're partial owners of most of many other investments) presumably they had total control over its funds.
For someone who has literally tens of millions of dollars in investments, and lawyers and accountants charged with overseeing those funds, having an entity that doesn't appear to have a purpose could raise questions.

Since the public sees only one year of returns and it wasn't declared on the 2007 or 2011 personal financial disclosure forms – we can't know whether its omission was a trivial one.
Jan Witold Baran, campaign and election lawyer with Wiley Rein says there are two reasons something would be disclosed to the IRS but not on election disclosure forms.

"One is that the laws don't require it. Some investment funds don't trigger disclosure. And the other is they missed something. Usually it is an oversight by a candidate's lawyers," he said.
That would sound trivial.

But Democrats point out that Romney repeatedly said he didn't need to release his returns because everything had already been made public.

The DNC's Wasserman Schultz says that points to the not so trivial, "It was the very existence of Romney's personal financial disclosure forms that he used as an excuse not to release his tax returns. That's because he claimed that everything there was to know about his assets was already known. Clearly, that was not the case."

Here's the Romney campaign's full statement, from Spokesperson Andrea Saul:

"The inescapable fact is that by releasing over 600 pages of information regarding his finances, Mitt Romney is clearly coming down on the side of disclosure. Any document with this level of complexity and detail is bound to have a few trivial and inadvertent issues. We are in the process of putting together some minor technical amendments which will not alter the overall picture of Gov. and Mrs. Romney's finances as disclosed in August."

Also see:

Obama shares intense encounter with Arizona governor

Gingrich shoots for the moon

Bachmann will run for reelection


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Taxes
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Biggge

    This is a great debate, you have Romney and Gingrich are acting like fools. Gingrich wants to play space games.Ron Paul is beating them all, forgot the other guys name. he has easy answers for everything..I also heard that slip up by Ron Paul on the housing question, he said affrimitive actions was one of the causes of the housing bubble. Romney saying the same thing as Obama on healthcare, I love it...Rick Santorm is just making up stuff, he toss words around...Now Romney makes up things about Obama...

    January 26, 2012 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Swiss bank accounts, Cayman accounts, hundreds of cpas taking care of his return, and still he cannot get it done correctly. This is the person that republicans call a businessman?

    January 26, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  3. Biggge

    All Ron answers are get rid of it....How would U cut a Trillion dollars in a year, Ron Paul would have America back in the stone ages..

    January 26, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  4. Biggge

    Ron Paul is not going to hire any Spanish people, he doesn't even know any....Outragous....

    January 26, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  5. Idie Seewalde

    Please ask the presidential candidates whether they would be willing to give up their government
    funded health insurance to set an example for the rest of us. They need to show us how they
    manage to sign up with health insurance companies – considering that the average American does
    not have the income they have. Idie

    January 26, 2012 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  6. Marie MD

    The flip flopper is just one of thousand of super rich people. The ceo of discovery channel's salary is $2M. Nothing to sneeze at but . . . . . he makes his money firing lesser employees to save money, he gets perks that most of us can only dream of and ultimately he gets that big bonus for doing wrong to others which brings his yearly salary to about $40M!!!
    Oh yes, you can't be too thin or too rich. That is if you are the one making all the money. Never mind the 99% and those withint that 99% with no jobs, no homes, no medical insurance. Oh wait, that's what the teapublikans want us to do. . . drop dead! I forgot how much applause clown paul received.

    January 26, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  7. Carrie Robinson

    A young lady made a statement,she had lost her job after ten years and no longer had healthcare;her question wasn't answered.her unemployment might have runout and if it haven't she probably enough to pay for healthcare,because her income isn't the same.To the Republican candidates and many other American it took 8 years for our country to get where it is and 3 years cant correct it .The Republican cares nothing about the middle class and poor,they say dam them and only for the rich.

    January 26, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  8. Obamacrat for Romney

    I used to support President Barack Hussein Obama, I really did, but with all due respect, really, Barack Hussein is a fringe lunatic. Not enough? That's like birthers insisting Barack Hussein's birth certificate isn't real enough. Except those were fringe lunatics, not the party chairwoman! It is time we had a President who isn't a fringe lunatic. A President who was, for example, a Democratic governor in a Republican state, or vice versa. It is time for Romney '12, PUMA!

    January 26, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  9. John

    Even with Ron’s liberal policy on handling foreign policy, he’s still got more back bone than the current leaders. He would definitely improve our economy.

    January 26, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  10. rojej

    President Romney for 2012!! Did great on the debate tonight!! We need you to run this country!!!

    January 26, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  11. Indy

    Romney's whole arguement that he is the most qualified to operate the biggest Government in the world is that he was successful in the private sector, and I have to wonder why people would be fooled into thinking that he can re create success in Government with his private sector skills. There is very little that is similar in the way jobs are created when you are President verses the private sector especially when you run on a theme that Government does not create jobs. I also wonder why Romney has not worked as job creator in the past six years if he is so good at job creation, you would think the top companies in the world would have made an offer he cant refuse.

    January 26, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  12. Hawk in Texas

    Don't let people like romney fool you. he said that he did not inherit his money, hes right he only inherited a few million so he could invest it to make more. where does he put his money. does his wealth create jobs like the republicans say it does. no his money is inbanks in the cayman islands, bermuda and a swiss bank.the republicans lie when they say the wealthy create jobs, did you notice gingrich. he didn't even have the courtesy to call obama president. all he could call him was obama. he has lied in every debate. he is certified crazy, romney is just another power hungry millionaire, santorum. well we will leave it at that. ron paul is just plain nuts.

    January 26, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |