Tax fight gets personal as Obama and Biden returns released
April 13th, 2012
08:27 AM ET
6 years ago

Tax fight gets personal as Obama and Biden returns released

(CNN) – The fight over how best to tax the American people turned to the personal finances of the two competing presidential candidates Friday, as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden released their 2011 tax returns and called for all-but-certain GOP nominee Mitt Romney to do the same.

The move comes after a week of aggressive promotion from the White House and Obama's reelection campaign on the so-called "Buffett Rule," a measure increasing the tax rate to 30% for Americans making more than $1 million per year.

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The tax returns released by the White House showed Obama and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, made $789,674 in income in 2011, and paid an effective federal tax rate of 20.5%. Biden and his wife made $379,035 and paid $87,900 in total federal tax.

In a post on the White House blog accompanying the returns' release, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wrote the president's proposed "Buffett Rule" would actually increase the percentage of income the Obamas would pay in taxes.

"Under the President's own tax proposals, including the expiration of the high-income tax cuts and limitations on the value of tax preferences for high-income households, he would pay more in taxes while ensuring we cut taxes for the middle class and those trying to get in it," Carney wrote.

Jim Messina, the campaign manager of Obama's reelection bid, called on Romney to release his 2011 tax return in a statement.

"Mitt Romney's defiance of decades of precedent set by presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, including his own father, begs the question - what does he have to hide?" Messina wrote.

He continued, "Governor Romney may try once again to play by his own set of rules, but Americans will hold him accountable for trying to hide his record."

The deadline for filing 2011 taxes is Tuesday, though taxpayers may request an extension from the Internal Revenue Service.

Anticipating the pressure to release Romney's tax returns, the former Massachusetts governor's campaign said Obama's campaign was diverting attention from a failed economic record, adding that Romney would release his documents as soon as they're filed.

"It's no surprise with the worst job creation record in modern history that President Obama would try to distract Americans from the real issues with a series of sideshows," Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. "Gov. Romney has already released his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 income and taxes. He will release his full 2011 return when it is filed."

Romney's tax returns previously arose as an issue in January, when Democrats along with fellow Republican presidential candidates pressured Romney's campaign to release the documents.

On January 24, Romney's team released his 2010 tax return, as well as an estimate for 2011. Opponents quickly derided the disclosure as paltry, noting that other candidates, including Romney's father during his run for the GOP nomination in 1968, released a decade's worth of tax returns.

The forms the campaign did release showed Romney earned $42.7 million over the past two years and paid $6.2 million in taxes. Over the two years, Romney's effective tax rate - the percentage of his income that he owed in federal income taxes - was 14.5%.

Democrats, eager to align themselves with middle class voters, quickly assailed Romney for paying a low tax rate while earning millions of dollars.

On Thursday, Biden slammed Romney at a campaign stop in New Hampshire for promoting a "Romney Rule" on taxes that would benefit only millionaires like him – a harsh comparison to the "Buffett Rule" Democrats are promoting.

"The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do," Biden said Thursday. "The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year."

Obama's 2010 tax return showed the president earned $1,728,096 and paid $453,770 in income taxes.

CNN's Jim Acosta and Paul Steinhauser and CNNMoney's Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Taxes
soundoff (390 Responses)
  1. Laz

    I would like to see if Romney is in fact hiding cash in off shore accounts? If he is then isnt this a method to cheat the system? They should all publish their respective taxe returns for the past 10 years. It is relevant to any voter to know how and and who has paid the candidates.

    April 13, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. fedup

    We need a third party lead by the people, time to take our country back!!!

    April 13, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  3. DJMcFly

    WHERE IS THIS STORY: "Obamas' Tax Rate Lower Than President's Secretary".......Fox News

    April 13, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. ReallY!!?

    Another Day in the Idiot Mines- Ok enlighten us on how stimulus, Obamacare & Dodd Frank all passed without a filibuster if Obama did not have a filibuster proof majority. Please do tell oh great smart one? Can u even count. Oh wait your welfare check just arrived!

    And what does it say when Massachusett, saw what their President Obama was doing to the country and had to send Scott Brown to stop him!!?

    April 13, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. Jcal

    There is tax rate and overall tax rate. They aren't the same. The top tax rate is 35%, and that is on income (married, jointly) over approximately $350,000. All income eared lower than that is taxed at a graduated rate of 10%-25%.

    To pay an overall rate of about 20% on $750,000 requires a lot of deductions! Obama did pretty well.

    April 13, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC


    Rudy NYC
    I see u failed math so let me help u.
    58 Democrats + 2 Independent = 60 which is a filibusterproof majority which is what the DEMS had for Obama's 1st 2yrs in office.
    Tch, tch, tch. You are still in denial over the fact that Ted Kennedy passed, Scott Brown was sworn in 2010 after just one year, and one of those independents consistently voted with the Republicans. This isn't about Math as much as it is about the facts.

    April 13, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  7. anagram_kid

    Again I will point out that you cannot create a budget on what people might donate on top of what they are required to pay. Sorry if this concept is too difficult for you to comprehend.

    April 13, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  8. vbscript2

    "Do you every wonder how capital gain tax got the lower rate than income tax. Its the classic example of what rich can do to tilt the laws in their favor. I'm not saying that all of the capital gain tax provisions are bad, it just that some parts of the system creates an avenue for greedy people to stay greedy."

    It's because capital gains income has *already been taxed* at the corporate level. Corporate income is double-taxed, 35% at the corporate level and then 15% at the personal capital gains tax level, for a true effective rate of 44.75%. Obama and Biden keep forgetting to include this minor detail in their populist math. Also, even if Romney's real effective rate were 14.5% (in reality, it was probably double that, at minimum,) that's still well higher than the middle class. As an engineer, I'm well above average income, yet I usually have an effective federal income tax rate under 10%. About 45% of Americans have an effective FIT rate of 0% or less (e.g. their tax refunds equal or exceed their annual withholdings.) Sorry, but this narrative of the rich not paying their fair share is complete populist crap. Sure, there are a few that don't (like Obama's friends at GE,) but they are few, far-between, and usually very well connected to politicians like Obama.

    April 13, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. JohnW

    I think we've all heard enough about how the top 10% pay 60% (or 70% or 80%, seems the righties can't decide on which number to use) and so they pay their fair share. The top 10% control roughly 90% of the wealth. When they pay 90% of the total tax bill, they'll be paying their fair share. Period. When that happens, we'll stop complaining about it.

    Oh, and Really says Obama started four wars. I have to assume the mescaline has kicked in, cuz that's a doozy.

    April 13, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. LynneSki

    ReallY??! wrote on page 10;

    ....He has had over 3yrs, 2 of which he had full control of the HOuse & Senate and could have passed the Buffet rule, let the Bush tax cut expire etc and all povery would be gone. Instead Obama himself extended the Bush tax cut. So give me a freaking break about the rich not paying their fair share when the IRS shows that the rich pays over 70% of the federal income taxes!!!.....

    And how many times did the Republicans filibuster work Obama did? How many times did Republicans bring us to the bring of closing down the Govt to get their way and get the extension of the Bush Tax cuts at the expense of the unemployed? How many times did they refuse to even have a debate on a jobs bill from Obama?

    Give me a break!!!!!!!!! You don't get to say NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO for 3 years and then blame everything on Obama. Grow up, and take responsibility for your parties decisions and actions!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 13, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  11. ReallY!!?


    WHERE IS THIS STORY: "Obamas' Tax Rate Lower Than President's Secretary".......Fox News
    So what if Fox News is reporting it. Is it a lie?NO it is true. Don't u see the hypocrisy? Too much kool aid I bet. But never u mind CNN is reporting the same thiing. Check CNN Ticker goto second story...... Feel better now? LOL!!!

    April 13, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. nolimits3333

    What was in that Swiss bank account, Mr. Romney, and why won't you release your tax returns?

    What are you hiding?

    April 13, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  13. Wazzup

    That's it? 20.5%...and this coming from the guy who wants to tax more other people?

    April 13, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  14. cinghoa

    I hate to say it, but the Buffett plan is the only one produced by anyone that would address the non-work related income that most of these trust fund kids live on. Changing the overall number isn't going to effect them one bit, their income is safely coming from interest and capitol gains and isn't touched by the employment income tax.

    April 13, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  15. Rick in Phx

    Which stimulus do you mean? The one Bush gave out or the one Obama gave out lol? Which brings up an interesting question. There seems to be a long list of companies that recieved stimulus money from the Obama administration which conservatives mention on this site daily, Exactly who got the stimulus money that W. Bush gave out that made him; "Question his free market principles"??

    April 13, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. JerseyJeff

    Romney doesn't want anybody to see his returns because he would push away 1/2 of the social conservatives and make mouths drop open when they saw how much he gives to the Mormon Cult.

    April 13, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    Jeeezus!!! Does Mittens have a big ole' head or what?!
    As irrelevant and pointless a comment as most on this story.
    I don't care about Mr. Blind Trust while-I'm-running-for-the-presidency-for-the-umpteenth-time's taxes. If he doesn't feel compelled to show them more dirt on his plate.
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    April 13, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  18. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    LynneSki – You don't get to say NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO for 3 years and then blame everything on Obama.
    You most certainly do when all of the bills were written by the Democrats and Republican ideas and amendments were shut out. Democrats and their my way of the highway mentality had them holding close dmeetings with no Republicans at all. THAT was their version of "bi-partisan cooperation".

    April 13, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one) Jeeezus!!! Does Mittens have a big ole' head or what?!
    yet another insightful contribution from Obama mama... It must be to hold all those competent brain cells! So what does Obama have in those big ears?? hahahaha

    April 13, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  20. ReallY!!?

    Seriously, r u really that dumb. Did any ask to create a budget on what might come to the IRS? The point unfortunately is lost on u.
    Secondly, as u say "u cannot create a budget based on donation" but I guess it is ok for Obama to spend more that we take in right?

    April 13, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. Squigman

    Romney: Go to hell.

    April 13, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. LBAM

    For all you Robmey fans, ask yourself one question. Why would a guy who makes 42 million in two years doing nothing (and is worth approximately 250 million) want to be president? Secondly, ask yourself another question.. Why would I want to elect a guy who hides his money in off-shore banks (to avoid paying taxes) to become Preseident? Hiws campaign slogan is "Believe in America." do you really believ in America when he puts his money in foriegn banks? Just imagin what he'll do if elected.

    April 13, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  23. ReallY!!?

    Rudy NYC
    When Kennedy died stimulus, Obamacare and Dodd Frank and many more got thru and no republicans coudl stop it. To day they never had a filibuster proof majority when he did is just flat out a lie. 58 + 2 = (hint: no need to carry a one) 60!!!
    I love the HOPE AND CHANGE though!

    April 13, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  24. Richard Broderick, Jr.

    Many years ago this country was much less well off, but we could still build bridges and roads, we could have good schools, we could take care of sick people and the old, and we could even look forward to doing better, bigger things, even going to the moon. It was an upward path.

    Yet, even though as a country we are much more wealthy, even though we have knowledge and technology far exceeding what we used to have and, even though our workers produce far more per person than ever before, we are told that we can no longer do the great things we used to. We are told our government can only take from the middle class, that we can no longer afford the things we want and need as a country and that the American middle class has to work harder for less.

    All of this we sacrifice for the Reagan/Bush/Romney/Ryan Republican party’s one
    true goal: more and more tax breaks for the rich. It’s a downward path.

    April 13, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. ReallY!!?

    Oh and Thanks to Obama and the Dems spendathon, the next generation will inherit a worse country than the previous. The first time evey in the history of this country. All be b/c this generation along with the Dems care more about handouts than what is in the best interest of this country. Way to go liberals!!! U did it!! we are finally like Europe!!! Pat urselves on the back. U finally turned this country into everything your ancestors worked so hard to get away from!!
    Good job!!!

    April 13, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
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