Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used Mitt Romney’s most recent charitable contributions to suggest that the Republican presidential candidate has committed some sort of tax crime.
“The information released today by Mitt Romney reveals he manipulated 1 of the only 2 y[ea]rs of tax returns he’s seen fit to show the country,” Reid tweeted this evening. “That raises the question: What else in those returns has Romney manipulated?”
Reid was apparently referring to the fact that Romney did not claim all of his charitable contributions for purposes of tax deductions. Romney paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent while donating almost 30 percent (about $4 million) of his income to charity. He only claimed $2.25 million of those donations for tax deductions, which has led some liberals to imply that he was keeping his tax rate artificially high.
“Mitt Romney’s 14.1 percent effective federal tax rate in 2011 would’ve been lower if he’d deducted all of his charitable contributions,” Talking Points Memo argued, explaining that the full charitable giving deduction would have dropped Romney’s effective tax rate to “about 12.2 percent, or possibly lower.” TPM noted that its calculations were “validated by the liberal Center for American Progress,” which also attacked Romney over what it regards as an “accounting trick.”
If Romney’s goal was to pay as high a tax rate as possible for the sake of appearances, he could have taken a page out of the Joe Biden playbook and contributed only 1.5 percent of his income to charity in 2011. (On average, Biden gave $369 a year – 0.2 percent of his income annually — to charitable causes over the last decade.) Romney would have had a much higher effective tax rate, but his church and favored charities would have had a lot less money.
If Romney had given less in charity, Reid would have called him callous. In fact, he did so anyway. “[Romney] says he wants to be president for only half the people but he acts like he only cares for the top two percent,” Reid said, moments after hitting Romney over his charitable donations.