One of the first things that I tell lottery winners or those who come into big money is to find a top notch team of advisors. My rule of thumb is to find someone who has handled more money than what you are bringing them.
That is exactly what Mitt Romney did.
As far as I can tell, Romney has not committed any crimes. He has not evaded taxes or used illegal tax shelters.
He used the tax advantages that Congress granted him and many other wealthy people.
Wealthy people can afford to hire big-time lobbyists and raise tons of money for political campaigns.
Average Americans can’t. Thus, the rich people get their way in Washington.
We have wound up with a mish-mash of laws that favor the wealthy.
If someone receives money in a punitive damages lawsuit, the money is fully taxable. If they are a Wall Street hedge fund manager, gains are often taxed in a lower bracket.
The middle class gets hit the worst. If a coal miner loses his job and cashes in his retirement or 401k account to feed his family, he pays ordinary income taxes and a ten percent tax penalty to boot.
Jimmy Carter once said, “Life isn’t fair,” and there is nothing fair about the tax code.
This brings us to the Mitt Romney situation.
Romney has made a ton of money. He has not released all of his tax returns and keeps hoping that people will leave him alone and forget about them. They won’t.
Americans want their leaders to come clean and not appear to be hiding something.
The worst thing Romney can do politically is to keep stalling. It allows Obama to be on the offensive instead of forced to defend his record in office.
There will be a day when Romney does get pressured into releasing his taxes.
When he does, we will probably find a lot of loopholes, offshore accounts and plenty of ways that Mitt has reduced his taxable income from some insanely high number to something more manageable.
To the point where he is probably in a lower bracket than Warren Buffett’s secretary.
Is that Mitt’s fault or Congress’s fault?
If I had Mitt’s money, I would be looking for every tax advantage that Congress has to offer.
If I were a financial adviser to Mitt Romney, I would be helping him find those tax advantages. Just like any other good adviser would do.
Next month will mark my thirtieth year in the financial business. I’ve yet to find someone who didn’t take a tax break, like deducting the interest on their mortgage, when that tax break was legal and available.
You can’t fault Mitt for doing what the rest of us do. He has more money so he found more complicated ways to shelter income.
Congress, not Mitt, allowed those breaks.
I’m a lifelong Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008, but I truly see Mitt’s political dilemma.
If he releases his returns, people are going to see deductions, loopholes and tax shelters that average Americans are not in a position to take advantage of.
If he doesn’t release the returns, people are going to assume he did something crooked.
One of the advantages that Romney has, is that people seem to think he is an honest, family-oriented man.
Goofy, ill at ease, and clueless about how average Americans live their lives, but many people trust Romney.
That trust starts eroding each day the tax returns don’t get released.
Romney has a chance to spin the issue his way, courtesy of Romney’s former arch-nemesis, Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee ran for President in 2008 on a consumption tax, called the FAIR tax, which also allowed credits for people with lower income. It eliminated almost all deductions and Huckabee claimed it would eliminate the IRS.
Embracing the FAIR plan could make Romney president.
It would help Romney with Tea Party members who don’t trust him and give Romney an issue that would force Obama to explain why he has not closed the loopholes.
It allows Romney to take a negative and make it a positive. It also keeps him on the offensive.
Duck and run is not what people want to see in a President.
People know the tax system is out of whack and unfair. It is by the rich, for the rich, to help the rich.
A FAIR tax might level the playing field. Especially if it is advocated by a multi-millionaire with a Swiss bank account.
Don McNay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist for Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at www.donmcnay.com.