Analysis: When Disclosure Is So Simple It's Complicated

By Jessica Yellin Cnn Chief White House Correspondent | St. Joseph News-Press, January 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

Analysis: When Disclosure Is So Simple It's Complicated


Jessica Yellin Cnn Chief White House Correspondent, St. Joseph News-Press


(CNN) -- That the Romneys' tax returns are complex is not surprising.

The tax code itself is a complex mess. And those with lots of money and sophisticated investment and tax advisors will often end up with convoluted tax filings that take accounting gurus to deconstruct.

But what should be fairly simple --it would seem-- is that Mitt Romney's tax returns should line up with his financial disclosure forms. He made the financial disclosure forms public in 2007 and 2011 in his two bids for the presidency.

However the Los Angeles Times found 23 funds and partnerships left off the disclosure forms. In response, the Romney team is now putting together what it calls some "minor technical amendments" to the campaign's first financial disclosure forms (see full campaign statement below).

Democrats say that's not enough and are calling for total transparency. In a statement Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called on Romney to "come clean" by "immediately releasing those returns for every year he filed personal financial disclosure forms, as well as the years he was CEO of Bain Capital."

What's fair here? Is it possible to know if these were, as the Romney campaign says, "minor technical" inconsistencies or, as his opponents hint, something more?

Here's just one example of why it seems difficult to know based on just one year's tax returns.

In his 2010 tax returns Romney declared he and Ann Romney own 100% of Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. It is one of the only entities on the tax returns entirely controlled by the two of them. According to documents in the returns, it was founded in Bermuda in 1997. But it doesn't appear on Romney's 2007 or 2011 disclosure forms.

The tax returns show Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors was worth just $10,342. That's a drop in the bucket compared to his net worth - - and there are many other Sankaty entities (though these are held by the family trust) that are worth more.

But if this really is one of the only entities wholly owned by the Romney couple (they're partial owners of most of many other investments) presumably they had total control over its funds. …

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