by Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica.
With the documents Mitt Romney released recently, we know a bit more about his taxes.
We know, for instance, that Romney paid a rate of 14.1 percent on $13.7 million in income on his 2011 tax return, which he achieved by purposely overpaying. Though he was entitled to deduct $4 million in charitable contributions, Romney deducted only $2.25 million to keep his tax rate above 13 percent.
(Romney, it has been pointed out, could file an amended return to claim the full deduction after the election. We’ve contacted the Romney campaign, and Michele Davis, a spokeswoman, assured us he would not do so.)
We know, according to a letter from his accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers, that Romney has paid state and federal income taxes each year since at least 1990, which would seem to disprove Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s claim in July that Romney had not paid any taxes for a decade.
And we know that Romney’s tax rate since 1990 never dipped below 13.66 percent, according to his accountants. Romney paid an average effective tax rate between 1990 and 2009 of 20.2 percent.
But there’s still a lot we don’t know. “I think most of the major questions we had before [last Friday] are still out there,” said Brian Galle, a tax law professor at Boston College. Here are a few:
How much did Romney make before 2010?
While Romney has disclosed his average effective tax rate for the last two decades, he hasn’t said how much he earned in those years or how much — the dollar amount — he paid in taxes.
That’s an important distinction, said Daniel Shaviro, a tax law professor at New York University. Various tax-planning strategies may have enabled Romney to reduce his adjusted gross income in some years.
In 2008, for instance, investors everywhere lost money when the stock market tanked. Romney may have carried those losses forward, Shaviro said, and used them to reduce his adjusted gross income in 2009. While we know Romney paid at least 13.66 percent of the income he recorded on his taxes in a given year, we don’t know what percentage he paid of the money actually took home that year.