Yes, a speculative statement, but if we say it out loud, we will be putting pressure on Romney to deny it and force him to release his taxes. And there is evidence that the statement is true.
Cross-posted at immizen.com.
This from Business Week:
When the stock market collapsed in 2008, the wealthiest investors fared worse than everyone else. (See, for instance, this Merrill Lynch study.) The “ultra-rich” — those with fortunes over $30 million — fared worst of all, losing on average about 25 percent of their net worth. “There was really nowhere to hide as an investor in 2008,” Merrill Lynch’s president of global wealth management pointed out in 2009. “No region ended the year unscathed.”Forget all the qualifications – this is what Romney is hiding. This makes too much sense not to be correct.
As a member of the ultra-rich, Romney probably wasn’t spared major losses. And it’s possible that he suffered a large enough capital loss that, carried forward and coupled with his various offshore tax havens, he wound up paying no U.S. federal taxes at all in 2009. If true, this would be politically deadly for him. Even assuming that his return was thoroughly clean and legal — a safe assumption, it seems to me — the fallout would dwarf the controversy that attended the news that Romney had paid a tax rate of only 14 percent in 2010 and estimated he’d pay a similar rate in 2011.
Greg Sargent at the WaPo Plum Line blog has an equally plausible theory along the same lines:
Why won’t Mitt Romney release his tax returns? Some commentators have begun floating the suggestion that he paid very, very low tax rates while amassing enormous wealth. The Obama campaign released an ad today taking this further, claiming Romney’s use of offshore accounts and his low rate on investments should make you “wonder if some years he paid any taxes at all.”Update 9:02 p.m Eastern Time.
How likely are these scenarios?
I surveyed several experts on the question. The answer: While they cautioned that this is necessarily speculative, since Romney won’t release his returns, it’s likely he paid significantly lower rates in previous years. They said the possibility that he paid next to nothing in any given year couldn’t be ruled out completely, though they said it was unlikely.
“For a person of that amount of wealth with good advisers, you would expect somebody like that to be well advised enough to minimize the tax consequences,” George Yin, a professor of tax law at the University of Virginia, tells me.
The experts said a key unknown is how Romney might have done this — and whether he resorted to aggressive tax sheltering, which could be very damaging.
Matt Yglesias of Slate.com lays out still another scenario about what Romney is hiding - that he hadn't always been disclosing the Swiss bank account that's mentioned in his 2010 return. In 2009, the IRS offered an amnesty to taxpayers who had been hiding Swiss accounts: basically, disclose and pay what you owe now, and we won't try to send you to jail. Yglesias wonders if Romney took that deal.