I really don’t want to waste my time talking about Governor Romney’s tax returns, but come on folks. He was asked on 60 Minutes about whether it was fair that he paid a 14 percent tax rate on his income, compared to the much higher tax rate paid by many middle income families. According to the Huffington Post’s account, he responded by saying:
“It is a low rate, … And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35 percent.”
If the question is why does Mitt Romney pay a low tax rate, this answer is wrong. The bulk of his income comes from Bain Capital. Bain Capital is organized as a partnership. This means that income is not taxed at the corporate level. It is only taxed when partners like Mitt Romney receive it. So the story of double taxation simply does not fly in Romney’s own case.
For those who are making a sport of dissecting the Romney tax returns, this is a really big one to let slide through the cracks. Other folks who get dividends or capital gains from owning shares of stock can tell the double taxation story (even here it doesn’t really fit; they got the benefits of corporate status in exchange for the corporate taxes), but in Romney’s case this justification doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economy and Policy Research. He also writes a regular blog, Beat the Press, where this post originally appeared.