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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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.