The twists and turns of tax returns

Updated
 

After Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the editorial board of National Review called for Mitt Romney to release more tax returns, it seemed possible the intra-party strife on this would end for a while as the dust settled. Instead, the opposite is happening, with new GOP calls for more disclosure.

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), a presidential candidate himself in 1996, became the latest to weigh on the subject, saying it would be “prudent” for Romney to disclose more. “I have no idea on why he has restricted the number to this point,” the senator said. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was asked the same question, and conceded, “I’d have to say yes.”

Complicating matters a bit, The Hill reported that “several” Republican senators said they expect Romney to disclose more tax returns within the week, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) cited a source within the campaign who said the candidate would disclose more “in the coming days.”

While we wait to see if that happens, it turns out that the one year of materials we do have – Romney released his 2010 returns earlier in the year – may be incomplete, leaving the public with zero full reports to scrutinize. The Huffington Post reports that documentation related to his Swiss bank account is legally required, but has not been released. Does this really matter? Actually, it does.

By serving as a curtain between Romney’s U.S. accounts and his foreign holdings, Romney’s Swiss account could shield many financial activities from American scrutiny. Hypothetically, any politically unpopular investments, clever and complex asset sales designed to lower Romney’s tax bills or other activities would be far more difficult to decipher.

Greg Sargent also had a good report on this, stressing the importance of understanding how Romney may have gone about reducing his tax liabilities. When Greg checked with the Tax Policy Center’s Joseph Rosenberg about this, he confirmed that today’s revelation is another piece in the broader pattern: “There could be assets abroad that wouldn’t necessarily be shown in the standard tax return, but would be on this other sort of disclosure form. What are these accounts, and what is the purpose for having them?”

For its part, the Romney campaign officially, on the record, said it’s “not true” that there were years Romney paid no taxes at all. We don’t know if this denial is accurate – we would need the hidden tax returns to say for sure – and it doesn’t preclude the possibility that there may have been many years in which Romney almost no taxes at all.

At this point, Team Romney also has not yet explained the need for so much secrecy.

Mitt Romney

The twists and turns of tax returns

Updated