We retired Tax Justice Blog in April 2017. For new content on issues related to tax justice, go to www.justtaxesblog.org
UPDATE: Candidate Mitt Romney told MSNBC on December 22 that he does not intend to release his tax returns, even if he becomes his party’s nominee. Watch CTJ’s Rebecca Wilkins explain to ABC News Brian Ross what Romney’s tax returns would show about his offshore investments and “carried interest” income. ABC video at this link.
End the Loophole Allowing Romney and other Fund Managers to have “Carried Interest” Taxed as “Capital Gains”
GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s personal wealth, estimated at $190 to $250 million, has been in the news a lot lately, including the sweet retirement deal he negotiated with Bain Capital, the private equity firm he used to head. The stories confirm CTJ director Bob McIntyre’s comments to Time Magazine that Romney’s multi-million dollar income is likely taxed at the special low 15 percent rate imposed on dividends and long-term capital gains.
This makes Romney a good poster child for the “Buffett Rule,” the principle that millionaires should not pay lower effective tax rates than middle-income people. One step towards implementing the Buffet Rule is to close the loophole that allows “carried interest” (the fund managers’ share of the deal they get as compensation) to be taxed at the 15 percent rate even though it is not truly capital gain.
Much of Romney’s income that is taxed at that super-low rate is actually compensation in the form of a “carried interest” in the private equity deals of Bain Capital. While CEO’s, actors, and athletes with multi-million dollar salaries, bonuses, or stock options pay income tax rates of 35 percent (and payroll taxes) on their compensation, managers of private equity firms, hedge funds, and other investment funds pay only 15 percent income tax (and no payroll tax) on their share of the funds’ profits that they get in exchange for their management services. Even some managers who benefit from the low rate admit it’s not justified.
Since this loophole benefits those who make millions, hundreds of millions and sometimes over a billion dollars in a single year, it is truly a case of the richest one percent being subsidized by the other 99 percent who pay higher taxes or get less in services to pay for this tax break.
Various proposals have been offered to close this loophole and, in the last Congress, one of those measures passed the House (three times!) but didn’t make it through the Senate. Republicans and many Democrats in the Senate claimed that the loophole somehow helps encourage investment in poor neighborhoods, helps minorities, small businesses and even cancer patients.
The truth is that it does not encourage any type of investment in any part of the country because it does not benefit the people putting up money for investment. It merely allows those who manage this money to pretend that they have invested their own cash and thus receive the capital gains tax break that is ostensibly in place to encourage investment.
Now that this loophole has the face of a very wealthy presidential candidate on it, perhaps the American public will start to notice and demand that it be eliminated. If you believe the tax code shouldn’t favor the richest 1 percent over the 99 percent, here’s a place to start: Close the Romney Loophole.