Ed Kleinbard on why we don’t need Mitt Romney’s tax returns

Attention conservation notice: Rich people can avoid taxes. This should surprise nobody.

I’ve never been big on seeing Romney’s tax returns because I do think that public officials are entitled to privacy, too. Romey’s tax returns strike me as far more invasive than asking for a birth certificate, which I also thought was inappropriate. Not to mention pin-headed.

What’s more, I don’t think we actually need to see his tax returns. He’s a rich man, his family was rich, so it’s not like he’s a newbie about handling money, he’s the presidential candidate for a party whose central message for the past thirty years has been anti-tax. So I think it’s pretty fair to assume that the answer to the question: How big was Mitt Romey’s tax bill? is “As little as the army of corporate accountants paid to help him can make it while staying juuuuuuuust this side of actually invoking the dark arts.”

Ed Kleinbard is one of my favorite colleagues over at Gould Law school. He has an op-ed over at CNN.com that illustrates this point. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the pith:

A key troubling public manifestation of Romney’s apparent insensitivity to tax obligations is his role in Marriott International’s abusive tax shelter activity, as previously reported by Jesse Drucker in Bloomberg.

Romney has had a close, long-standing, personal and business connection with Marriott International and its founders. He served as a member of the Marriott board of directors for many years. From 1993 to 1998, Romney was the head of the audit committee of the Marriott board.

During that period, Marriott engaged in a series of complex and high-profile maneuvers, including “Son of Boss,” a notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter that investment banks and accounting firms marketed to corporations such as Marriott. In this respect, Marriott was in the vanguard of a then-emerging corporate tax shelter bubble that substantially undermined the entire corporate tax system.

Go read the whole piece. It’s excellent.