Romney paid 15% tax on $45m income

Republican candidate for President releases federal tax returns on his 2010 and 2011 earnings.

The Mitt Romney campaign published details this morning of the Republican Presidential candidate's federal tax returns, showing that he expects to pay $6.2 million (£4m) in taxes on income of $45 million (£29m) from the last two years -- tax rates of 13.9 per cent in 2010 and 15.4 per cent in 2011.

The disclosure reveals the extent of Romney's wealth, questions about which have dogged his nomination campaign in recent weeks. Romney and his wife Ann hold around a quarter of a billion dollars in assets, largely derived from Romney's involvement in the private equity firm, Bain Capital. The Washington Post and other newspapers this morning reported the Romneys have a large numbers of offshore investments -- in parts of the world including Bermuda and the Cayman Islands -- with funds from a recently closed Swiss bank account.

The Romneys' incomes of $21.6m in 2010 and $20.9m in 2010 came mainly from investments, which under the US capital gains law are taxed at 15 per cent. The maximum tax rate on earned income is 35 per cent.

At a debate in Florida last night Romney said:

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.

The former Massachusetts governor noted that under rival Newt Gingrich's proposal to reduce capital gains taxes to zero, "I'd have paid no taxes in the last two years."

The Gingrich campaign made a surprising surge in recent weeks; the former Speaker of the House opened up the nominee race with a landslide win in the South Carolina primary. Fifty delegates are at stake on 31 January when four million registered Republican voters will take to the polls in Florida, choosing between the remaining candidates Romney, Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.