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Romney's tax documents raise even more questions

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If Mitt Romney thought that a partial release of his tax documents would change the discussion from his 47% remarks, he was mostly right. Unfortunately for Romney, the tax information that he provided brings everyone back to the problem that has nagged him for months. Romney's 2011 tax documents are a little too convenient since they failed to fully utilize deductions and they can easily be amended any time in the next three years.

My first thought when I read that he was releasing a summary going back 20 years was why 20 years? If the norm is 10 or 12 years, 20 sounds odd and it's probably for good reason. The weaselly 20% rate that PWC mentions is so light on detail that it's not even funny. The tax rate during the Clinton years was much higher, so everyone was paying more.

Was the purpose of releasing a 20 year summary meant to soften some painfully low years? It would not be a surprise if the purpose of including the 20 year term was so they could play typical Big Four accounting games to make the numbers look less outrageous than they would be over 10 years. Since they only released a summary, the 20 year term may have been used for this reason. How many tax report simulations did they run before they settled on 20 years?

As for the accounting firm, why should anyone be impressed with a summary from PWC. (You might call them Pay We Confirm.) PWC also did the books for AIG, Tyco and JPMorgan and the results were not without scandal. Should the PWC stamp of approval really mean much? The big accounting and consulting groups have a well earned public reputation for taking big money and delivering whatever result they are paid to deliver. Only an fool who hasn't watched the accounting industry in action would fall for their spin. Believe their numbers, at your own risk.

Others are now wondering whether there are ugly secretes inside the full Romney tax documents since only a sanitized summary was handed over. Did Mitt Romney file for tax amnesty with the IRS in 2009? Who knows? Did he have to pay back taxes related to amnesty, thus raising his tax rates? We do not know. What was the year-by-year rate as opposed to the broad summary? No clue. Why did Romney close a Swiss bank account in 2010, the year after the 2009 IRS amnesty program? Only Mitt knows. Andy why is there a 3.5% delta between the various numbers provided by PWC? It's nuts.

Even his 2011 charitable donations are worth noting. Most went to the Mormon church and the rest went to his own foundation, which then shovels over most of its money to the Mormon church.

To makes matters worse, the Romney campaign will only take questions via email. They will then pick and choose who they answer and how they answer. Is that supposed to be transparent? Mitt Romney has been running for president for years and this is the best he can do?

So yes, Mitt Romney has managed to change the subject from the 47% but he has brought us back to the original problem of whether or not he is paying his full share. We still don't know and we won't know until the full details are provided.

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