Romney says his effective tax rate is 15%
January 17th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
11 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. Omari Dice

    How about ROMNEY release your 2010 Tax Returns. Mitt has just promise to consider releasing 2011 Returns by April. How clever is he ? We want to SEE 2010 Returns-th­e one with the cheating. 2011 returns will be prefect-no cheating........

    January 17, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Woman In California

    How in the world anyone would vote for a man who refuses to show where his income comes from – and how much he pays in taxes is beyond me. IF he would deliberately hide important information such as this – what makes you think he wouldn't hide other important FACTS about his life? He's too sneaky, too unlikeable and much too evasive for me – yet this is the best the GOP feels they have to offer up against Obama. Be prepared to lose.

    January 17, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  3. Larry in Houston

    I was amazed , when I saw the debate last night when Ron Paul said a big fat ZERO – lol 🙂 I'd figured he would at least go LOWER than the rest of the knuckle heads. lol – say somewhere BELOW 9 – 9 – 9 ???
    Anything LESS than 9 – 9 – 9 would be great, but we all know it will be the same old stuff (s.o.s.) whomever the next prez gets sworn in. They talk taxes every election cycle- it just never happens. It's a ploy – to get votes, is all.

    January 17, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  4. tompainelives

    I assume that's 15% effective Federal rate – remember he pays no social security on his capital gains or medicare tax
    I make less than 1% of his annual 26 million from Bain and my effective federal rate was 18.6% on top of which I paid
    7.45% in SSI and Medicare.

    January 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  5. sonny chapman

    15 % ! The sad part is that Repubs. hate Obama so much they will not express outrage that THE AMERICAN CAPITALIST SYSTEM is broken for the Middle Class.

    January 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Of course! When people have money to invest, it is subjected to lower long term capital gains tax rates. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY. These investments are risked and may be lost IN THEIR ENTIRETY. They are the LIFEBLOOD of economic growth in the country. If you want to bring economic development in the USA TO A HALT start taxing this at 40-50%.

    Only stupid, stupid people that don't understand how our economy works (Obama and the Democrats included here) talk about raising these tax rates because it fits right in with their class warfare amd continued destruction of our capitalist system. They will not be happy until this country looks like North Korea.

    January 17, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    For a good comparison, let's use the example of Sen. John Kerry, D-MA and his ketchup heiress wife. Of the millions in income they have every year, they pay tax almost exclusively on his senator's salary. The rest of their income is derived in the form of dividends from tax-free municipal bonds, bringing the Kerry's effective rate to near zero. Why don't the Kerrys want to pay their fair share?

    January 17, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. Steve Moore Smithton, Mo.

    By waiting until April and using this years return, he is being taxed on 2011, he has had time to make this particular one look good in an election year. Let's see 10's, 09's, maybe 06, or 05, a year when he wasn't in the spotlight. That would be interesting.

    January 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. Terrence Vocals

    He's going to wait until his taxes have been filed for the 2011 year where he's doctored them up in lieu of his presidential candidacy. That's exactly why he won't release the returns for the previous year, I'm sure they show a low tax rate that would make him look bad.

    January 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    If Romney paid the capital gains tax rate on his "earnings" at Bain, then there is something wrong with that picture. I thought you paid capital gains on earnings from investments made with *your* own money. If he was paid "earnings" from investments made using someone else's money, then he was being paid a commission or a salary. Has Mit Romney been reporting income actually earned as commissions and salaries as capital gains for years and years?

    January 17, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. Emma

    This is EXACTLY why Romney is dodging this issue. I am 100% sure his returns show he pays a very low amount of actual tax, because of all the loopholes & deductions his tax accountants find for him. This is why GOP voters are being tremendously STUPID in giving Romney the nomination. Obama will use information like this to show Romney is an out of touch, elite, 1%-er that represents everything that is wrong with our system. Romney will lose in a landslide. I cannot believe the GOP establishment supports this guy and GOP voters fell for the "Romney is the only one that can beat Obama" line. Sure – the candidate that lost to the guy that lost to Obama stands the best chance of beating Obama this time around. Huh????? And now add on his tax situation, personal wealth, the Bain Capital problems, his lack of core principles, his lying and constant flip flopping, his arrogance and out of touch personality – there is NO WAY this guy beats Obama. Dumb GOP, very dumb.

    January 17, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    ""Is this announcement supposed to appease us?"

    It should, since he's not required to divulge any tax information at all."

    HAHAHAHAHAHAA...LAME. Had Obama taken that approach in 2008, the GOP/Teatrolls' heads would have exploded. Try not to be such complete hypocrites...hypocrites is bad, mmmkay?

    January 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  13. samuel

    WOW ! And he called it "Envy". I pay more taxes than him....and he said Non-Milllionaire Americans are envy ! Because we are concerned about the weath and taxes issues. What a great President he will make. I have decided to totally leave the GOP ! Too many people that dont care about Americans or this country. Would rather not cut taxes and let others just hit the bottom !

    January 17, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  14. Sandy

    "It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,"

    Probably? That means it is "probably" less than 15 percent. Release your tax returns so we can get an accurate number.

    January 17, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. Peace

    I can't wait for the debate on Thursday. Mitt must brace himself to be crucified well by his fellow contenders.

    January 17, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. R

    "How in the world anyone would vote for a man who refuses to show where his income comes from – and how much he pays in taxes is beyond me."

    Did Obama show his tax records when he was running for President?

    January 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. Skitownrefugee

    So there you have it ladies and gentlemen – the Republican smoking gun. I'm a micro business man and I get up into the 28% tax bracket – plus since I'm self-employed I pay 15.3% in social security taxes (because I have "earned income" and not investment income which is not subject to SS taxes) and I pay a state income tax of about 6.5% (not to mention a 5% sales tax). So here I am – Mr. Struggling Middle Class with an effective rate that probabaly works out to something like 30% to 35% of my puny income (and I work an average of 6 days a week) and these rich bast&#$^ are paying a rate that is about or less than half of my rate. Is that fair? Ask youselves – why is the effective rate for the rich so low – answer: because the Republicans are so good a pulling the wool over the eyes of the poor and middle classes. It's time we change that.

    January 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    It gets better: Someone needs to ask him how his tax "reform" proposal would change HIS OWN tax liability and effective tax rate (should be asking that of every candidate who proposes one). It's already been shown that Mittens' plan raises taxes on people making less than $40, know, the people in the "normal" tax brackets that have to pay the full income percentage and get no relief from special deductions and loopholes, etc., usually around 30%-35%. But hey, just for kicks, let's apply his tax "reform" plan to his tax records when he releases them...because he IS releasing them if he wants to be elected...and see just how much lower that 15% effective rate gets.

    January 17, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Skitownrefugee

    He Rudy – you need to go take an ecomomics 101 course before you say anymore about taxes. That's a big problem – so few understand basic economics so it's easy for politicians to pull the wool over their eyes.

    January 17, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Jules

    Since he hasn't held a job since he was governor of MA, his total income is from investments which is taxed at the capital gains tax of 15% and if the GOP has its way it will be taxed at 0% in the future. This is the man who would be president. He talks about this great country, but would really rather not have to pay any taxes to support it. He and Paul should get together and see just how to run a country on nothing.

    January 17, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. Brad

    To all the whiners in the comments: Romney at one point already paid taxes on this income, geniuses, probably at the 35% level. Now he's being double taxed on capital gains, at a lower rate (as it should be). Investments are where money is made, so why don't you elect someone who will slash income taxes and allow you to also take advantage of that extra cash by getting it into investments? Then YOU TOO can be called evil, like anyone else who is smart enough to invest their money.

    January 17, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. A 15 year old

    THIS is why the rich are so rich and the poor is so poor.

    THIS is why we need to reform the tax code.

    This is just upsetting. How can we expect a man who goes out of his way to find loopholes in the tax code that help him out to fix these loopholes that are making it so hare for poorer families like mine to make it in this country. Romney wants the poor to stay poor and the rich to stay rich. He doesn't want to create jobs; he had his chance at Bain, and he squandered it. The economy won't be fixed under Romney. It may look fixed to him, but it won't to me and you.

    Imagine this headline: "President Romeny uses tax loopholes, pays no taxes". Do you want to read that? I don't.

    January 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. rick

    John (12:23) you're an idiot. Based on your theory no one should pay taxes since your paycheck comes from an employer who already paid taxes. No wonder you're Reublican.

    January 17, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    R asked:

    Did Obama show his tax records when he was running for President?
    According to the article he released his taxes in April 2008, which was still in the midst of the primary campaigns.

    I think Mitt Romney might have a problem. I think he was pulling a salary from Bain, but reporting it as capital gains.

    January 17, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    So is Obama getting favorable tax rates on the millions he's making and investing? Is HE paying 33% on ALL of his income??? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!

    January 17, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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