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. jdun

    Of course he only pays 15%, he's a risk taker, a job creator, an investor in America (or China, or India, or Indonesia, etc. ). The rest of us are just envious of the money he makes and the money he has invested in the lobbyists to make sure he and his fellow 1% don't pay their fair share. This is America ,this is capitalism!

    January 17, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. rick

    R, yes Obama did release his tax records when he was running for President but of course, you people did not believe them, just like his birth certificate, Harvard diploma, etc., etc.

    January 17, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. DaveF

    For conservatives out there, why not just change the capital gains tax to what it was under Reagan? 28% doesn't sound too bad, and if St. Ron could be happy with that, why can't modern GOPers?

    January 17, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Mark in Missouri

    Contrary to the articles assertion, the vast majority of "middle class" Americans don't have a 15% effective federal tax rate. Most of the commentors might think they do, but they do not. It's a lot less. With regard to investment income, commentors complain that about Romney's 15% rate. However, under the tax code a family of 4 with income up to $95000 is in a 0% capital gains tax rate. A family with this income is in the top 15% of earners. By most definitions, that income is above the middle class. And before anyone argues about Social Security tax, the vast majority of "middle class" earners are net receivers from the Social Security system also. The "middle class" is not being abused by the federal tax system.

    January 17, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. KS

    He pays as much as the law requires; law that was passed by the “representative” that we (people) elect. So, stop complaining! Start voting and start paying attention to the “your own expression here” that our government became....

    January 17, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh puleeeeze, Kerry is NOT running for the presidential nomination. Why not include everybody in the top percentile then? EVERYBODY for a GOOD comparison. Apples and bricks. Lame.

    January 17, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. Yaaro

    Fair is Fair wrote:
    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?"

    Kerry is not running for president – but Mittens is. No need to compare.;

    January 17, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    47.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
    Well shut my mouth!lol!

    January 17, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Brad wrote:

    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).
    Capital gains is not a double tax, but that is beside the point. As you try to point out, capital gains taxes are paid for income on investments with *your* money. Bain Capital invested other people's money, too.

    Earnings that Romney received from Bain may have actually been a salary, or a commission. That means he should have paid the 35% rate jon his income from Bain Capital, instead of the capital gains rate. For example, you own a company and you pay yourself "income" based upon its' profits. Is that income a salary or capital gains?

    January 17, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Fair is Fair

    "This is just upsetting."
    Know whats REALLY upsetting? If you pay $1 in federal income tax, you pay more than 47%, or nearly 80 million taxpayers combined. Upsetting, indeed.

    January 17, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. David

    I'm sure I know the answer to this, because no politician from either party would ever go for it, but why can't there be a cap on how much capital gains or dividend income will be taxed at the 15% rate? Most ordinary working people very likely do not have the extra income to invest, and make a killing on capital gains taxed at the lower rate, like all the richer people who can invest.

    BTW, I'm a Democrat who would have voted for Romney, but ever since the "Income Envy" crap he was spewing, I'm not so sure. That rhetoric really shows how out of touch he is.

    January 17, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Skitownrefugee wrote:

    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.
    Why don't you take English Rhetoric 101 so that you can learn how to read with comprehension? My poimt is similar to yours, that being Romney should be paying a significantly higher rate. He appears to be declaring his salary from the company that he owned as capital gains.

    January 17, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. Skitownrefugee

    I have a few relatively welthy friends and they hate Obama's guts. They call him a socialist and are afraid of paying the percentages that I do in taxes. There's no social security on capital gains (investment income) and the federal rate is just 15%. I'm a real estate broker and when I present an offer on a seller client's property I am obliged to discuss their potential tax liability as well as their closing costs. You should hear them whine and complain when I break the news that they are subject to a capital gains tax (genereally) 15%. If that was taxed as "earned or ordinary income" they'd be paying a much higher percentages. But the bit&% and whine and complain and curse the Democrats. They want to keep it all. It's another example of the greedy 1%. Patriotism and paying down the national debt the complain about are never mentioned. Capitalism at its best!

    January 17, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Hey "Truth...": The article is NOT about Obama. The article IS about Romney. Keep your eye on the ball, you moron.

    The point is, Joe the plumber, Larry the construction worker, John the teacher, etc. go out and work 40 – 60 hours a week moving America forward, and get their REAL income taxed at the nominal 25-33% rate for all their sweat. Rich people like Romney, having seen to it that the system is gamed for them, get to sit on their asses and do nothing while their investment income from their inherited riches gets taxed at the favored 15% rate.

    Only in the deluded, rightwing fairytale-world of Teatardville is that considered "fair and balanced".

    January 17, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    He pays 15% on his INVESTMENT income, not earned income, as do most of the rich fat cats in the U.S. Before we start rallying to then raise the investment tax, make sure it won't raise the rate that we peons would also pay on our meager investments. Republican, Democrat, or Independent....none of those politicians live in the real financial world. Wish I had a guaranteed lifetime pension income after only working 4 years. They all make me sick.

    January 17, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  16. Thomas

    Fair is Fair is right,

    Mitts only paying 15 % tax is totally legal , what can you expect from a guy who's five sons avoided military service.

    Fair is Fair

    January 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. maureen

    He pays 15% on his INVESTMENT income, not earned income, as do most of the rich fat cats in the U.S. Before we start rallying to then raise the investment tax, make sure it won't raise the rate that we peons would also pay on our meager investments. Republican, Democrat, or Independent....none of those politicians live in the real financial world. Wish I had a guaranteed lifetime pension income after only working 4 years. They all make me sick.

    January 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Shaz

    15%??! Must be nice! And these jokers talk about welfare...

    January 17, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |

    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!!!
    He's not paying 33% and he acknowledges that that is wrong. He's been saying that for 3 years now. Congress should take up the Buffet Rule. Income inequality is the civil rights fight of our times.

    January 17, 2012 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. fhan

    This is not a "blanket" statement against posters but a general observation-–I am amazed by the ignorance of those who do not know how paying taxes works! You pay what the tax laws require.
    If Mitt Romney's income is derived from capital gains, the tax law says you pay 15%. Those who think that he is doing something "slick", he is following the law!
    If you don't like the tax laws, let your congressman know.

    January 17, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. Thomas

    @ Fair is Fair

    Thanks for pointing out that Canada was fighting Nazi Germany two year before we the USA entered the War.

    Your understanding of history is more then enlightening !

    January 17, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. KickTheCan

    Two points:
    1) I don't see anyone suggesting that he has broken a law by paying 15% on his investments. You need to ask why the rule is 15%, not why Gov Romney followed the law.
    2) He is still paying a higher percentage than most Americans. Most Americans have a tax rate of 0% and pay no income tax. Some even have a negative tax rate because they get refundable credits. Again, no law being broken on that front.
    Everybody likes to use these points to score political victories. Nobody wants to answer the polciy questions.

    January 17, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  23. nathan

    This is the best the GOP has to offer? Seriously?

    January 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. Al

    A fine example for the passage of the fair tax or flat tax.

    January 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Independent Voters

    I am a middle class and Mitt pay less tax then me and my friends.
    Mitt is a true flip flop and he is out of touch.
    Mitt could you lower my tax like yours.

    January 17, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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