January 24, 2012; Source: Washington Post | In one of the recent Republican presidential debates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talked about times when he might have needed a job or feared getting a pink slip. His income totals in 2010 and 2011 were pretty healthy, obviating his need for a job:  $21.7 million in 2010 and $20.9 million in 2011. Almost all of this came from profits, stock dividends, and interest on investments. None of it was wage income.

After being shellacked by Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary, Romney sped up his timetable for revealing his 1040s, taking one of Gingrich’s most effective debate cards off the table as the candidates enter Florida for the next leg of their presidential marathon. 

Nonprofits may be interested to know that Mitt and Ann Romney dedicated 16.4 percent of their income over the two-year period to charitable contributions. The bulk of the charitable contributions, $4.1 out of $7 million, went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church, of which Romney is a member.

NPQ Newswire readers might also want to know that in 2010, the Romneys’ tax rate didn’t reach the 15 percent tax rate that he had said he thought he paid (and is likely to pay for 2011), but instead was only 13.9 percent. As Romney told a crowd in Tampa this week, “I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.” Romney achieved his low rate partly by paying a lot of capital gains, but he also reduced his tax liability in 2010 by carrying over investment losses from previous years.

Romney’s tax records also confirm the rumor that he has substantial investments in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Luxemburg. While there may be nothing wrong with any of Romney’s investments, the propensity of taxpayers—and some well endowed foundations—to use these offshore investment vehicles might be a concern for some observers.

According to the Washington Post, Romney is one of the richest people ever to run for president. That’s no disqualification for the office to be sure. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also exceptionally wealthy, but proved to be a very effective and beloved president. But Romney’s opponents or their “independent” intermediaries are likely to keep digging, taking the time to examine all 210 pages of the 2010 tax return and the hundreds of pages for the 2011 return. Other critics will call for him to match his father’s willingness to release 12 years of tax returns when he, George Romney, unsuccessfully ran for president.

Give Mitt Romney some credit. Rather than continuing to twist and turn with ever more uncomfortable grimaces and mumbles, he came clean, at least for two years of tax returns. Let’s hope we don’t have to watch a replay with another candidate sometime in the future. Let’s make it a moral obligation for all candidates to release their returns for multiple years as they run. Unfair? No, the office they’re running for is president of the United States. That warrants a higher standard of transparency and disclosure than usual. —Rick Cohen