So… it is 93 days since Senator (and fellow Mormon) Harry Reid said he had it on good authority that Willard Mitt Romney hadn’t paid income taxes for some ten years. I noted as much in my blog last August. I also mentioned that he had not released a full return yet, since his single released return lacked the FBAR filing necessary to show what holdings he had in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland.
So… No, Willard did not release other tax returns. However, thanks to a Bloomberg News FOIA filing, we now know that in 1996, Romney participated in an abusive tax shelter called a CRUT (or Charitable Remainder Unitrust). In essence, the CRUT allowed high rollers to shelter big chunks of income under the cover of giving non-profits (in this case the Mormon Church) a share of the trust. The IRS changed the rules in 1997, but everyone who was already in one was allowed to stay in it. And under the CRUT, one could stay in for 15 years.
The deal was a tax deferral deal. I can’t give all the details (I am the simple actor–I sing, I dance, I give the monologue), but they’re laid out here. The kicker was that under the terms of this shelter, the filer could take a yearly ‘fee’ from the amount in the CRUT and defer all taxes on the amount taken until the cessation of the deal. So Willard and family could take out a big chunk of money every year until the account was empty, and the Mormon Church wouldn’t get anything.
Does this confirm Reid’s allegation that Willard didn’t pay taxes for ten years? Well, if he’d been participating in deals like CRUT, it looks likely that he paid very little. It also looks like he was using his church as a place to park money out of reach for the IRS. I’m guessing that someone in the Church of LDS blew the whistle on this deal to Reid. The people filing the FOIA knew what year they were looking for, too.
Fortunately for Willard, the arrival of Hurricane Sandy pushed this story into the back pages. So will this make any difference in the election? Hard to say.