Friday, September 21, 2012

Did Mitt Romney Prove Harry Reid Wrong? Not So Fast.

For some time, Mitt Romney has been trying to convince America that "Big Bad Harry Reid!!!" has been lying about Romney's tax record. Yet for so long, he's refused to release his tax returns to prove it. Well today, that's finally changed. Yet while many in the media are already claiming this proves Reid wrong, a closer look at what's in Romney's release paints a more complicated picture.

Take a look at what Salon's Andrew Leonard found.

Without claiming the total legally possible deduction, Romney ended up paying an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent. If he’d claimed everything he had a right to, he would only have paid around 12.1 percent.

There’s something both hilarious and pathetic about a presidential candidate manipulating his deductions so he ends up paying what he considers a more politically appropriate tax rate. But it’s especially ludicrous in light of Romney’s numerous claims that he’s always paid the government exactly what he owes, “and not a dollar more,” implying that anyone who voluntarily gave the government more than he legally owed was either a fool or a moron.

Romney is even on record declaring that the act of paying more than he owed would mean he shouldn’t be eligible for the presidency! [...]

So! A change in tune. A flip-flop, even.

But the true puzzler is why Romney would imagine that artificially boosting his tax rate to 14.1 percent would help him with any voter who isn’t already outraged at how low Romney’s tax burden is. As has been pointed out numerous times this week,the average worker’s payroll tax rate equals 15.3 percent of their income. So even with the jiggering, Romney paid a smaller percentage of his income as taxes than many members of the 47 percent he trashed in his Boca Raton, Fla., speech to fundraisers.

So Romney actually fudged his numbers so that he could claim that he paid a higher share of income taxes than he would have if he had claimed his full charitable deduction. Actually, TPM's Brian Beutler dug through Romney's returns some more and discovered that his real effective tax rate would have been 10.5% without his "creative accounting"!

So was Harry Reid wrong in claiming Mitt Romney paid nothing in taxes? If taken literally, then yes. But when taking into consideration that Romney pays less in taxes than most of the people he's been bashing this year, then Harry Reid's statements haven't really been too far fetched.

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