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. Jerome

    Mitt should come back with "I'll be glad to release my tax records when you release your school records".

    April 13, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  2. Michael B.

    Are you all incapable of understanding that his money in the Cayman Islands IS TAXED AS IF IT WERE IN THE US ANYWAY??? Who cares that he decided to put it there. If it was supposed to be some hidden assets I don't think we would know it is even there. We know it's there because it's NOT HIDDEN, and it's TAXED LIKE NORMAL.

    April 13, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  3. Investment Advisor

    @ Is Mitt a Git... What an idiotic post!!! Where in the world did you come up with this garbage?

    April 13, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  4. rs

    Fair is fair- Don't you think it would be right and just if Mr. Ronmey paid the same personal tax rate as anyone in the middle class? Why should he get breaks "just because he's rich"?

    April 13, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. Holla

    Being rich has nothing to do with authority. The objective of Mitt right now is to have Mr president on top of his name. Strongly believe in Obama/Biden 2012.

    April 13, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  6. Leroy Pare

    So what is Obama trying to say? That we should punish people who have made good decisions?

    April 13, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |

    If Willard is elected, his name will be the Tax Evader-In-Chief.

    April 13, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  8. Data Driven

    Someone here posted the tiresome nonsense that poor people don't pay taxes. Hm, let's see: a trip to the grocery store? Taxed. Clothes for the kids? Taxed. FICA? That's a tax. Social Security? A tax. Medicare and Medicaid? Taxes. State disability? Tax. By the time someone who makes 20K a year pays all those taxes, there's nothing left to pay any Federal taxes.

    WE ALL PAY TAXES. For the love of God, get a new talking point.

    April 13, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  9. Larry L


    "I see jealousy is still rampant. I don't blame anybody for wanting to keep as much of what they earn as they can. I'm the same way, I work hard for what I get, I'm going to keep as much as I can."
    The math for running a modern nation won't work without a progressive tax rate. Ronald Reagan knew that and encouraged the Congress to retain a fair and progressive system of taxation. I don't think Warren Buffet is jealous – he can simply do math and read history.

    April 13, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  10. cobra

    All the left wing whiners on here really have their panties in a wad over Romney's tax reture. Do you suppose the THING will really tell the truth about anything, of course he won't.

    April 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  11. WJames

    Is Mitt a Git?
    I have to start off by stating you are off your rocker. No one is more angry nor arrogant that Obumma when someone disagrees with him, which is most of the country. With that said, I too do not know why everyone is so obsessed with what Mitt Romney makes. He made it, unlike the 49% who pay no federal income taxes (Obumma’s base). But then again I do know. Obumma has divided this country so far apart that it makes the Grand Canyon look like a wrinkle on an ant’s face. When in America did it become a crime to work hard and make money? Again, I know that one (Obumma). Instead of all the losers out there wanting to take from someone else, get off your behinds and work for your own! I do and it won’t kill you…I promise!

    April 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  12. zoel

    It dropped another political competition, it's all the disenfranchised people who can judge ... one of the two!!?"

    April 13, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  13. DrCole

    Do you really believe that with the Ryan budget proposal that Romney would pay nearly 0% in taxes??? Wow, what kool-aid are you drinking. That capital gains tax that you "say" is going to be phased out is being replaced with a different type of tax.

    April 13, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. Debra from Georgia

    All those who think that I want somebody to support me, I have a job and I still want Mitt Romney to pay more in taxes because they are beating my butt in taxing the small dollars that I make.

    April 13, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. Debra from Georgia

    R-Money, pay your fair share, and tell you wife to stop with the poor me crap

    April 13, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  16. RealityBites

    Why not ask for the last 10 yrs of tax returns from both sides? It is the only way to remove the dishonest spin from both sides.

    April 13, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  17. Max

    Simply put: Romney along with the other millionaires MUST pay their FAIR share of Taxes like all other American's including the president and vice president. This is simply 'MATH' and simply 'PARITY'

    WHO doesn't get it?

    April 13, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  18. Brian

    GOP supporters who aren't wealthy need to wise up. As it stands, most execs in the private sector obtain their earnings through options. If the capital gains tax is done away with, more and more execs will push to have their earnings retrieved through options. Essentially, that would further take away tax revenues, not to mention the effects it will have on the market. So continue to support the wealthy, because they don't care about their constituents' well-being, just their vote.

    April 13, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  19. MadreDeCinco

    We need a president who worked for what he has. A president who didn't take shortcuts. A president who graduated with honors with dual degrees. We need a president who cares about people enough to donate a much higher than average amount (percentage wise) to charity. A president who gave to charity his entire life in both service hours and monetary donations. We need a first lady who has had personal hardship so understands what it is like to struggle (MS and cancer qualify) We need a first lady who had her priorities in order; who stayed at home to raise her own children rather than choosing the status a career gives.

    What we do not need is a president who used drugs and made poor grades in college yet somehow took a shortcut and succeeded anyway. We don't need somone who accepted a Nobel Peace prize they did not earn (another shortcut) We don't need a president who only became charitable when running for public office. We don't need a first lady who chose to pursue her own career (sounds like she wanted status) because her husbands income of over $160,000 was not enough to afford them the "luxury" of staying home.

    April 13, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  20. edpeters101

    It will take a while for Mitt to file/release his returns, as he has to check with his wife first (we all know she is the financial expert in the family)...

    April 13, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. Dr. Knowitall

    I luv all the libs. They want to make it seem as if Mittens is breaking the law. Not one of Obamas rich friends, including the Tax cheat Warren Buffet has ever payed more than what is required. If Obama wants the dividend tax to increase so bad, why didn't he just let the Bush era cut expire ?
    Its time to tell Obama to stop playing these Third World class envy games. NObama 2012 !

    April 13, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  22. The REAL Truth.. (not the imposter)

    @deb0155 – "Wow – Such jealousy we all have! Maybe instead of going others who have "made it" – we all should strive as hard as they did to "make it." Anger is not the way to go"
    Deb, I think you are missing the point. It's NOT jealousy, or class warfare – as some are calling it. It's about FAIR and EQUITABLE share of the burden. It's NOT the $$ amount, or how MUCH tax is being paid by these folks. It's about the EQUALITY. If I make $50M a year, mostly from cap gains (investments) then my nominal rate is in the 15% mark. Yes, Investments have volatility and risk, but the reward is a lower tax rate than "ordinary" income. At a flat rate that's $7.5M tax leaving you $42.5M on which to "make ends meet". If I make $100K a year, my nominal rate is $28%. That leaves me $72k on which to live.. Big difference between paying Uncle Sam $7.5M and $7200 (yes, I know those would not be the correct amounts, I'm keeping it simple for illustrative purposes). If I make less than $50k, I'm basically poor – and FWIW, the average income in the US (2010) is $41k.

    The tax code is set up to favor those who invest, not those who "work" and have to live on ordinary income. It's about fairness, and those who have $50M incomes have money to invest. At the $100k level, most DI goes to putting food on the table, paying bills and staying ahead of the rat race. It's not jealousy at all.

    April 13, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Malory Archer


    I don't get it.
    The buffet rule is based on INCOME TAX RATES. Gov. Romney is not employed so he doesn't pay INCOME TAX. His money comes from capital gains and investments which are taxed at a completely different rate.


    Why are CDs and Money Market accounts taxed as regular income? My husband & I aren't poor by any stretch of the imagination, but we aren't wealthy either. Our 2011 federal tax rate worked out to 22% (yikes), and included in that rate was the interest (aka capital gains) on our CD investments. Those investments aren't worth much (most CD accounts aren't), but we purchased them using after-tax income. Now we're being taxed again. Why should OUR tax rate be higher for our sweat and labor than it is for a bunch of idle "swells"? Either all investment income should be taxed at the capital gains rate, or everything should be taxed at the federal rate.

    April 13, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. Malory Archer


    Wow – Such jealousy we all have! Maybe instead of going others who have "made it" – we all should strive as hard as they did to "make it."


    Being born with a solid gold spoon in your mouth hardly qualifies as "making it".

    April 13, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  25. bill

    This proves that uhbama is grossly overpaid.

    April 13, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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