Mitt Romney finally released tax return documents for the last two years, revealing that he expects to earn close to $43 million in 2010 and 2011, almost all of it from personal investments. The documents cover his his 2010 returns and estimates for 2011, which are due in April.
A early analysis by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal (who got sneak previews of the 550 pages of tax documents for the Romney family's various trusts and foundations) show that Romney and his wife, Ann, took in zero income from wages, but instead made virtually all their money from dividends, interest, or profits on their various investments. As a result, his effective tax rate for 2011 was 15.4 percent, right about what he had previously estimated, but far below what most Americans (and his biggest rivals, Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama) pay. That's also a slight increase over the 13.9 percent that he paid in 2010.
Romney expects to pay $6.2 million in federal income taxes for the 2010 and 2011 tax years. That's actually less money than the Romneys gave away in charitable contributions — about $7 million, more than half of that to the Mormon Church. They also show that he made about $13 million via "carried interest," the controversial rule that allows him to classify the money that he continues to make from Bain Capital as capital gains, rather than earned income.
There are certain to be more nuggets of interest revealed — like the fact that he had a Swiss bank account that was closed in 2010 — after accountants pore over the returns to see how Romney's vast and complicated wealth is structured.
The decision to release the release the returns have weeks of debate over them was meant to deflect criticism of the former governor, who is among the richest Americans to ever run for President, but has never released his returns throughout any of his previous political campaigns. However, it's unlikely to completely put to rest any attacks on the campaign, in part because it only covers the last two years (when he already knew he would be running for President) and because it confirms one of the most popular attacks on the candidate — that his 15 percent effective tax rate is far too low for a man of his wealth. The tax code is not his fault, but it plays perfectly into the narrative of Romney as out of touch with hard-working Americans.
The returns are also being released on the morning of the State of the Union address, perhaps in the hope that they'll get lost in the pre-speech news shuffle.