Tax fight gets personal as Obama and Biden returns released
April 13th, 2012
08:27 AM ET
2 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. Paul

    "Oliver

    Its common sense that the wealthy should pay at least as much as the middle class in tax percentage. If these so called job creators were actually creating jobs it would be one thing, but over the last decade of the lowest rates in modern history, we've seen more jobs shipped over seas, money stashed into foreign banks, etc. While the rich have doubled, even tripled their wealth, the poor and middle class continue to struggle to get by. I make 50k and 30% of my income goes to the state and fed. Why should someone who makes 1 million pay less, when clearly they can afford at least as much as I do.

    Be a patriot, pay your taxes and help lift up the system that made you wealthy. Without all those people driving your cabs, making your coffee, buying your products, building your homes...without everyday Americans, the rich would never have made it in the first place. Give back to your country."

    ^this. best post on the subject!

    April 13, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. wrongfacts

    To my repub friends, with mitts additional tax cuts the CBO (bipartisan) has estimated an additional 6 trillion (with a T ) dollars will be added to the deficit. Please tell we where that money is coming from (or what programs they will cut)

    April 13, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. stranger in an increasingly strange land

    Unemployment is going down. Jobs are coming back to the United States. The President and Vice-President have released their taxes for 2011. Obama made a bit above 3/4 of a million dollars and is willing to pay more taxes so the middle class can get tax breaks. Romney's last tax return showed over $42,000,000.00 and a tax rate, 14.2%, lower than the 17% tax rate most middle class folks pay. Romney is willing to let the middle class pay more taxes if he and his rich friends get tax breaks. That seems to be fairly clear to me.

    April 13, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. gtx333

    I am sure when the Bush tax cuts expire, the tax system will be fair.

    April 13, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. REG in AZ

    The Republican way to create jobs is to give more to "the money" and depend on them to responsibly stimulate the economy and create jobs – it is proven that doesn't work! Bush-Cheney proved beyond any doubt by constantly and totally concentrating on placating and patronizing "the few", their strong supporters, that the "trickle down" theory is a total fraud that just makes the wealthy wealthier and solicits more political support. Now they are trying to camouflage it and sell it again. Are the people (99%) really that gullible and actually just "pawns" to be manipulated in the game of appeasing the insatiable "more" (never enough) appetite of the (1%) so the Republican / Tea Party representatives can have "the money's" support for their political ambitions?

    April 13, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. Harold

    Release the tax returns AND HIDDEN OFFSHORE BANK ACCOUNTS, Romney!!

    The American people that worked their whole lives for it before you fired them in a "restructing" move have a right to know. SHOW US THE MONEY!

    April 13, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    They're taxed as "ordinary income" (versus "earned income", on which payroll taxes are levied... or "investment income", such as capital gains). The difference, Mallory, is that with investment income, there is an element of RISK... that is, there is no guarantee that one can expect a positive return on investment, and in fact, no one even guarantees the original amount invested.
    -------------
    Oh, that is altruistic hogwash. No different from the other benevolent sounding myths conservatives tell about "trickle down economics", "tax cuts pay for themselves", and "tax increases hurt the job creators."

    The risk on the back of the invested, not the investor. If I borrow $1 million to start a restaraunt and it fails, then I still owe the balance on that $1 million loan. Eventually it will get paid, *with* interest.

    April 13, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. American

    Lauren R.
    In reality, President Obama's plan is widely popular and supported by the majority of Americans that millionaires & billionaires start paying their fair share.

    By contrast, Romney wants to eliminate paying taxes altogether on his capital gains off the back of privatizing seniors' Medicare...widely unpopular in fact.

    April 13, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  9. Oliver

    The right will complain, but there are 50% of Americans who pay no income taxes at all. After all, Faux News told them that was the case. Lets ignore the fact that those people still pay payroll taxes, social security and medicare. Then you look at the numbers...

    Raising the tax rate on millionaires alone to 30% (which by the way is about what I end up paying making 50k a year), would generate 1.4 trillion dollars in revenue.

    If you took all of those 50% who don't pay income tax, and liquidated every possession and piece of capital they have, every single dime to their name that would generate 700 billon in revenue, about half of what it would if the rich simply paid their fair share.

    It boggles the mind that this is even an issue. If you are part of the 99% advocating for the "job creators", you should start advocating for yourself instead. There is no justification for you paying more in taxes then they do. The Romney's of the world don't need car elevators, the middle class needs food, jobs and sound education for their children.

    April 13, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  10. Elaine

    I'ma republican and a female and I've always voted republican. I cannot and will not vote for Mitt Romney. He does not support women and has no interest in doing so.

    I will not vote for Obama because I'm a die hard republican but I refuse to vote for Mitt Romney and will not vote in the next presidential election.

    April 13, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Truth wrote:

    As usual Rudy, you didn't answer the question posed about Obama. Why is HE still accepting his salary as president if he is a millionaire.
    -----------
    1. It's a really stupid question, but in your case you know that I am always happy to grant special needs exceptions.
    2. Obama cannot afford it.
    3. He is not trying to reduce his earned income to zero in order to escape the AMT.

    April 13, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Fair is Fair

    Anonymous

    how the FJFJFJSLLSFJ does Obama get taxed only 20% None of that is capital gains.
    -------
    Several ways, all legal. First, you need to know what an "effective tax rate" is. It means the dollar amount of tax paid as a percentage of adjusted gross income. So if your AGI is, say, $50K, and you get $40K in personal exemptions & itemizations, you're taxed on the remaining $10K. If that amount of tax is $1,000, your "effective tax rate" is 2%, since $1000 is 2% of a $50K AGI.

    See why tax specialists get paid so well? And that's a VERS simple example. Time to simplify the code...

    April 13, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    Ok, here is the answer to the as yet unanswered question that Democrats and lefties refuse to answer.

    First the question:
    How much are rich people expected to pay to be judged "paying their fair share"?

    Answer:
    As much as it takes in order to sustain and grow the percentage of people paying NOTHING while sustaining and growing all social welfare programs without limits. So while this MAY be 40-60% now, in the future it may require 100%.

    So the answer is there is no answer and it depends on some leftist kooks idea of what is fair based on their unlimited ability to take from others whenever they wish to redefine "fairness" to suit their needs at the moment.

    So the answer is your money is not really your money but theirs so stop asking and just fork it over evil rich people.

    April 13, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. Mark from Louisiana

    Looks like obamas secretary pays a higher rate than he does......what will he campaign on now? Ha Ha Ha

    The most recent information about salary regarding Obama’s secretary is for his former secretary, Katie Johnson, who is listed by the White House as having made $90,000 in 2010.

    According to Wikipedia, Johnson is 31 years old and now attends Harvard Law School. I don’t know about her personal life or what her deductions would be, so I can’t assume any children or deductions.

    On a $90,000 salary, she would pay $16,578 in federal taxes, $3,780 to Social Security, and $1,305 in Medicare taxes.

    That adds up to a total federal tax burden of $21,663 on $90,000 in adjusted gross income, or a tax rate of 24 percent, well above Obama’s rate of 20.5 percent, even though Obama’s 2011 salary was nearly nine times the 2010 salary of his secretary.

    April 13, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. ReallY!!?

    Did Obama's secretary pay a higher percentage of her income in taxes??? That is the question.

    April 13, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. Fair is Fair

    Rudy, INCREDULOUSLY wrote:

    "The risk on the back of the invested, not the investor. If I borrow $1 million to start a restaraunt and it fails, then I still owe the balance on that $1 million loan. Eventually it will get paid, *with* interest."
    -------–
    Rudy, I reallly got to admire you. I just don't know HOW you make this stuff up on the fly. But I digress... on to debunking your statement....

    If you borrow $1 million to start a restaurtant, and it fails, you say YOU'RE on the hook, with interest, eh? That's really good news for the American taxpayer. Using your logic, we can expect Solyndra to pay us back the $500 Million with interest. Oh wait... they wen't BANKRUPT. And Rudy... so did YOU when your restaurant went belly up (in your example).

    You can really be exasperating when you just fabricate stuff to suit your talking point, with absolutely NO FACT to back it up.

    April 13, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. Captain Obvious

    Obama hada super majority of congress for his 2 years. If this is really "a solution", then why wasn't it a priority before? The fact is that the only thing Obama really knows how to do well is campaign.

    April 13, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  18. ReallY!!?

    If Obama feels the rich should pay more, he should lead by example and pay as much as he want. No one is stopping him fr doing so.

    April 13, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair INCREDULOUSLY wrote:

    That's really good news for the American taxpayer. Using your logic, we can expect Solyndra to pay us back the $500 Million with interest.
    --------------
    POP! Solyndra was a grant. They were never expected to pay it back.

    At least, according to Hannity. He says it was a blanket giveaway. The idea was to give away $500 million and somehow the taxpayers would get reimbursed through the new revenue from the jobs and taxes it would generate over the years.

    April 13, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    Rudy NYC
    Truth wrote:
    As usual Rudy, you didn't answer the question posed about Obama. Why is HE still accepting his salary as president if he is a millionaire.
    ---–
    2. Obama cannot afford it.
    ==========================================================================
    Not a stupid question Rudy as Obama and Democrats wants to question rich people and in particular Romney concerning their wealth and contributions. As a millionaire, Obama needs to be held to the very same standards. While in office all of his needs are being paid for by the taxpayers and there is absolutely no reason he should be collecting a salary, especially with the poor job he has been doing.

    "Obama cannot afford it." BWAHAHAHAA!!!! Yeah, we know the feeling. WE cannot afford another 4 years of OBAMA!!!

    April 13, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. The Real Truth and Nothing But The Real Truth

    Obama show us the birth certificate!!!

    April 13, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. zaggs

    "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."

    Carney is either stupid, or lying. The "Buffett rule" only affects those making 1 million or more. As the Obama's income come in under 1 million it would have had no effect what so ever on the taxes they paid.

    April 13, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. GI Joe

    RMoney is a snake in the grass Mormon. Never trust a mormon.

    April 13, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. zaggs

    Its also interesting to note that Obama has only released tax returns from the time frame he was in public office. Yet he wants Romney to release tax returns when he was not in public office.

    April 13, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. ted

    Expire the Bush tax cuts OR reform the tax system and take the loopholes away from the rich and corporations. Stop the subsidies to big oil and other cash rich corporations and put that money into stabilizing social security or medicare. Very simple things that can be done to make everyone pay their fair share of taxes to deal with debt and deficits. The current Republican leadership is impotent to do anything this radical against their election supporters. They are all out of touch wtih the reality of the populace. Term limits would help.

    April 13, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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