The latest of Mitt Romney’s many excuses for not releasing more of his tax returns, aside from the two years he’s released to date:
Mitt Romney told Parade Magazine that part of the reason he does not want to release more of this tax returns is that he believes his tithing to the Mormon Church is a private matter, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.Be astonished: he’s lying again. Financial data about Mormon tithing is not a secret. Like members of every other denomination that tithes, Mormons list their tithing as a religious/charitable contribution on their tax returns, school financial aid forms, mortgage applications, and other documents where you itemize your income and what you do with it.
“Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,” Romney is reportedly quoted as saying in the forthcoming edition of Parade. “This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.”
Want to see?
eHow: How to Write Off Tithes on a Tax Return. An article for members of all tithing denominations.
Instructions:(That brings back memories. Our ward clerk used to issue everyone a little annual statement of their total tithing and other donations for the year just ended. I got my first one when I was eight. I figured out what they were for when I started filing tax returns.)
1. Call your bishopric and ask the ward executive secretary for a copy of your tithing statement. He should have the dates you paid and the exact amount, along with your yearly total, on file. Pick up a copy at your meetinghouse or ask the ward secretary to mail it to you.
Tithing and Tax Deduction: a query and three replies at askamormon.com, a very orthodox site. The question is from a churchmember who (the respondents agree) is being overscrupulous about declaring his tithing on his tax return—i.e., he hasn’t been taking a deduction for it.
So you’ve glanced at those links. Notice how there’s not a lot of anxiety or implied secrecy there about declaring your tithing on your tax return? That’s because it’s not an issue and never has been. Romney made that up. People’s tax returns are their own business unless they run for president, but the amount a Mormon pays in tithing isn’t a bigger secret than the other info in his or her return.
The aspect of tithing that is personal and private is how you arrived at the figure you paid. The commandment in question says tithing is 10% of your increase. Whether that’s calculated on gross or net, total income or income after taxes, is between you and God. Romney has relocated the secrecy that properly applies to a transaction between him and God, to the deductions he took for tithing on his tax return, which is between him and Caesar.
This man will lie about anything and he is bad at it. He is a stupid, stupid liar.
But let’s go back to the business of Mormons and tithing. The “let your conscience be your guide” approach to calculating tithing works out pretty well for God, since Mormons overall tend not to nickle-and-dime Him. If it’s income, they pay tithing on it. That means they tithe on payouts from retirement accounts, even though they tithed on the money they invested in it. If their Mormon parents gift them $100 out of the parents’ already-tithed funds, the recipient tithes $10 in turn.
Some of you will have already spotted the kicker: Mormon tithing practices don’t recognize clever loopholes and offshore schemes for hiding income. If it’s increase, you tithe. Romney’s religious excuse for not wanting to reveal his tithing is hogwash, but I can think of a more worldly reason he might flinch at it: if his declared income is out of synch with the amount of tithing he paid.
That could get interesting. It could also go either way. I assume Romney pays proportionally less than a retired Mormon schoolteacher because he thinks in terms like whether that money has already had tithing paid on it, whereas the schoolteacher just sees her retirement income as income. That attitude could look bad to other Mormons. The other possibility is that his tithing in some years has significantly exceeded 10% of his acknowledged income, which would look bad to just about everyone.
For a good summary of the presidential candidate tax-return thrashes of this and previous election years, try this CBS overview: Outrage over tax returns a replay of past campaigns. If you just want the current baseball scores. See below. “Ongoing” is because sitting presidents will have been releasing their tax returns annually.
Obama 2012: ongoing
M. Romney 2012: 2010 returns plus an estimate for 2011
Gingrich 2012: 1 year
Obama 2008: 7 years
H. Clinton 2008: 7 years
McCain 2008: 2 years
G.W. Bush 2004: ongoing
Kerry 2004: 20 years: 5 years for presidential run, 15 from prior senate campaigns
Edwards 2004: 10 years
G.W. Bush 2000: 9 years
Gore 2000: 8 years
Dole 1996: 29 years
Forbes 1996: no returns released
B. Clinton 1996: ongoing
G. Bush 1992: ongoing
B. Clinton, 1992: 12 years
Perot 1992: no returns released
Dukakis 1988: 6 years
Reagan 1980: 1 year
Carter 1980: 8 years
George Romney 1968: 12 years
Feel free to suggest corrections. I haven’t yet found an online source that reliably differentiates total years of returns released while a candidate and returns released while holding high office. In the meantime, here’s the Tax History Project.