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. FLIndpendent

    @ FIELD1stSGT – You are really a very sad individual as I've read many of your posts. If you are truly middle class and support the Repubs then there really is no hope for you. It's a real shame that your hatred has so blinded you that all you have to offer is lies and more lies. Please quit spewing the ridiculous, "spend, spend Obama" talking points...WE'RE SICK OF THEM!

    January 17, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. Tony

    I was hoping it would be lower. Any money sent to the government goes towards favored interests, pork, slush funds, foreign aid, bailouts, etc. The money Mitt kept was either spent on goods and services (money for workers) or invested (money for entrepreneurs to grow the economy).

    January 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Scott S.

    No wonder he didn't want to release that. 15%? THAT'S IT??? Meet Exhibit A for the reason OWS exists.

    January 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  4. ds

    it's not class warfare to suggest the percentages should be equal to my 25%. Reagan suggested the same thing and was applauded. Not sure what's changed since then.

    January 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Truth somebody wrote:

    Just ask the stock and bond holders of the old GM that Obama screwed over royally by disregarding bankruptcy laws and handing the company to the unions.
    Actually, the value of GM stock was somewhere around $5 and sinking fast by the time the Obama adminstration stepped in. After the bailout and restructuring, the value of the stock began to rise rather quickly.

    Isn't The Truth amazing?

    January 17, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. mk1

    Truth, I would say you need to really do your homework, the ultra wealthy are nowhere near nor every have been at the point of losing everything unless they are complete idiots. Only those whose entire portfolio is in extremely risky investments are at risk. Someone like Romney is spread wide and his risk is minimal, as for the vast majority of the wealthy. Don't spew that garbage about losing everything as that is bogus and shows how you really do not understand investments and investing and simply regurgitate false information. By the way, I am not a novice, I am quite heavily invested and know of what I speak.

    January 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Mindie from Indie

    "Obama for the Millions"
    Romney for the Millionaires"
    Obama is on top don't you know. This says it all.

    January 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. Herb

    How is investment income (except for "real" venture capital) different from gambling? The withholding rate for gambling winnings is 25%. Ohhh, right, the folks who go to the casinos don't get the benefit of DC lobbyists.

    January 17, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  9. mk1

    Field1stsgt, as a vet you embarrass me but mostly you embarrass yourself with your posts.

    January 17, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  10. JC in SC

    Does roughly half of the electorate think this guy can run this country, better than anyone? Really? A man who thinks that middle Americans who are livid about the likes of him continuing to enjoy the Bush tax cuts for the rich, are livid because we envy him? Are half of us nuts? He's like a plastic Ken doll, fake through and through.

    January 17, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. gg

    May be CNN needs to bring someone to explain Romney's money investment & tax code.

    January 17, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. cmcle

    I'd like to clear up a couple misconceptions I read in previous comments.

    First, an effective rate of 15% does not mean that after deductions and loopholes, he probably paid no taxes. What it does mean is that if you take the amount of tax he paid and divide it by his income, you get 15%.

    Second, the capital gains tax he paid (rate of 15%) was not on income for which he'd already paid tax. He paid the tax on the increase in value of his investments. So, for example, if he bought some stock for $10 million, then sold it for $12 million, he paid capital gains tax on the $2 million.

    January 17, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Indrid Cold

    Well, well, well, I can hardly believe it, but it looks like we are going to have a good old fashioned DEBATE about the lives lead by America's sheltered rich, and the rest of us who work like dogs to stay in the middle class. I confess, I'm amazed! I NEVER thought this issue would come under the hot light of public scrutiny as a result of a GOP presidential candidate, but here it is in black and white! America is finally going to see first hand how the wealthy are pampered by our tax and corporate welfare laws. Thank YOU Willard M. Romney!

    January 17, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Thinking Moose

    I am guessing all you bashers have no idea your actual effective tax rate. Being in a certian tax bracket does not equal your tax rate.

    January 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. Emperor Vadik, CA

    As a single guy in the lower six digit salary I pay 35%, I've done the calculation many many many times..., I don't mind paying my 35% if everyone else in the six digit salary and above pays the same...

    ...I wonder if that 15% was Mittens was supposed to pay before his deductions brought it down to 0%???

    January 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. mdmikeh

    Darron R. Brown, M.D.,

    Really? 40%...the top federal tax rate is 35%. Your accountant is ripping you off. We are talking federal taxes here and that what Romney paid 15% capital gains on.

    Apple and are probably including things like state, locality, property, social security, medicare, etc. Which your overall tax rate might start to inch up to there

    Romney state that his fed taxes were closer to 15% rate, we have no idea what all of his other taxes were.

    January 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. gdb

    My friends, wake up and read the tax code. 15% is the tax rate on dividents. That is the law and if you dig into the reasoning behind it you will realize it makes sense.

    January 17, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. bem684

    There's no reason this should upset anyone. We all pay 15% or less ON LONG-TERM INVESTMENT INCOME. The only reason this bothers people is because Romney has made the vast majority of his income in recent years from investments, so he gets to take advantage of the policy. If he had earned it all from paychecks he would be paying the 35% rate. If you start when you're 25 and put away $2,500 a year in a diversified retirement account, by the time you're 65 you'll probably have over a million dollars. Most Americans could do it if they had the foresight early enough. And then your income would also be almost entirely from investments, and you'd also pay 15%.

    January 17, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    "May be CNN needs to bring someone to explain Romney's money investment & tax code."

    And maybe CNN needs to do a better job covering Occupy Wall Street.

    January 17, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. bem684

    @Herb.... Stocks and bonds are sold by companies to raise money so they can expand operations and undertake new ventures. The income a person earns from buying those stocks and bonds is compensation for the use of that money by the company. It is actually nothing at all like gambling. And from a historical viewpoint, gamblers lose money, while investors make money.

    January 17, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. vet in texas

    some Americans actually know what they're talking about, some Americans think they know. Which American are you?

    If you voted for W twice, please don't answer, we already know which American you are.

    January 17, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  22. kilraven

    First lets debunk the whole "double taxation" argument. Corporations are considered as "artificial" persons. They limit the liability of their investors to the amount of their investments, unlike sole proprietorships and partnerships whose personal assets can be a risk. Corporations allow equity or "at risk" funds from investors to utilized for lawful business purposes which also reduces the risk of loss for any one investor. And because corporations are better capitalized (for the most part) than sole proprietorships and partnerships, they can hire well compensentated professional managers to run the affairs of the company. For the right to operate an enterprise this way, corporations pay a progressive rate on their income. The fact that they are allowed to operate at all has created 90% of the government infastructure and cost of what we see today. Most of government's regulatory activities are aimed at corporations and the industries they dominate. On one hand, corporations have created the global market place we have and the proiiferation of goods and services we see. On the other hand, the way of life and values envisioned by our founding fathers has been hijacked in favor of corporate greed and avarice. If the rich have to pay captial gains of 15% on investment income, then they should be thanking their lucky stars for the good fortune. The rest of us who derive the rest of their income from a salary or wage are subject to payroll taxes (include social security) and federal and state (for most states) income taxes. We don't even get the right to pay the government after we get our money. They just take our money directly from the employer.

    January 17, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. JC in SC

    Guys. Stop. Stop. Hold up. Mitt Romney is "the" guy type that has gotten us all riled up about clich├ęs like "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" and "raising taxes on the rich will be taxing the very people who job-create". What a bunch of crap. And now he's going to be the Republican nominee for Prez? Really unbelievable. Republicans are dense. Like Joe Friday on Dragnet said, "Just the facts ma'am", and the Reps want to change that to "Just the altered facts, ma'am". They can't see the forest for the trees and they're all talking heads, repeating the same hogwash they've heard for decades. Their IQ is just high enough to get them to the voting booth to make a bad choice. And they did that in 2000 and again in 2004. Now look where we are today? Bankrupt! And the Reps want to blame the misery on Obama. Just the "altered" facts, ma'am.

    January 17, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. CRH

    i'ts funny that during last nights debate he said he would like to see a tax rate of 25% yet he is only paying 15% presently-guess he wants his taxes raised
    this guy has to go!!! how has he become the frontrunner???

    January 17, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  25. Gurgi

    Aaaaaahhh, the jealously expressed here is hilarious, and so hypocritical. Not one person dogging Romney would not want to be in his shoes financially. They just did not want to work for it. America the land of opportunity to be whatever you want to be. It is all up to the individual and the choices they make.

    January 17, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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