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Why Mitt Romney Should Not Release His 2011 Income Tax Return
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Mitt Romney is preparing to release his 2011 tax returns shortly. Given his statements leading up to that event, it seems to me, totally unnecessary.

Mr. Romney has stated numerous times that he has complied with all regulations in filing a disclosure of his personal finances as required by the Federal Election Commission. He adds that he is going beyond those requirements by having already provided his 2010 return and promising to add his 2011 return when it becomes available. When pressed on why he won’t offer several more years of his returns, his response invariably has included the theme that his opponents will “twist” the facts in his returns and use that distorted information in attack ads.

If we take Mr. Romney at his word, then it doesn’t make any sense to release any return beyond the one that has already been offered up. If the details included in that return were “twisted’, wouldn’t the details of his 2011 return also be subject to similar distortions? Adding the current year certainly won’t soften the call to have him release many more. So why not leave it at the one year that has already created an unwanted stir for the candidate?

One reason for Mr. Romney’s willingness to provide the public (and media) with his 2011 return might be that until it is filed, he has control of how his finances are treated for tax purposes. Although it has been a long time since I was a practicing CPA, I know that complicated tax returns are not straight forward. The taxpayer has choices as to how aggressive or not she wants to be in interpreting the Tax Code to minimize her tax burden. Similarly, if there is some other good reason to be not as aggressive (say, running for public office) the taxpayer could choose to treat some financial transactions in a way that leads to a higher tax burden solely for the sake of appearances.

Now that Mr. Romney has further complicated his presidential bid with his now famous, "47% Americans pay no income taxes", there will probably be even greater calls for him to release many more years so as to prove that he is not one of that 47%. And certainly, there will be greater scrutiny of whatever he does release.

The due date for his tax return is October 15th. We will find out shortly which approach Mr. Romney has chosen.


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