New Orleans I’m not sure how I had missed this angle, but talking to a friend who is part of the financial world gave me a better understanding of why Mitt Romney would be taking the hits for non-disclosure of his previous tax returns. It’s not because he’s rich. Everyone knows that he’s rich. It may be because he either took advantage of an IRS amnesty program in 2009 for non-disclosed secret Swiss bank accounts or, even more seriously, that he did NOT take advantage of the amnesty and therefore is still hiding the accounts, which would be a big time political scandal!
Trying to track down more information on this theory, it seems that the Swiss bank settlement meant that 4000 people were going to have previously non-disclosed accounts made public, so the IRS offered a program for them to come clean and pay up, even though the penalties were hefty.
Slate‘s Matthew Yglesias speculates Romney may have taken this 2009 amnesty for non-disclosure of his Swiss bank account.
Romney might well have thought in 2007 and 2008 that there was nothing to fear about a non-disclosed offshore account he’d set up years earlier precisely because it wasn’t disclosed. But then came the settlement and the rush of non-disclosers to apply for the amnesty. Failing to apply for the amnesty and then getting charged by the IRS would have been both financially and politically disastrous. So amnesty it was. But even though the amnesty would eliminate any legal or financial liability for past acts, it would hardly eliminate political liability.
Schoebel in the Daily Kos laid all of this out more clearly that I could (big props!):
This seems highly plausible, either 1) He did disclose his Swiss bank account to the IRS prior to 2009 which would be indicated by his prior returns, in which case releasing these returns would put this all to bed or 2) He did not disclose this account in which case it would not show up on his returns, and releasing them would prove he had acted illegally, almost assuredly dooming his campaign. That fact that he refuses to release any of these past returns leads me to believe it is the second case, otherwise the political pounding he’s currently taking would not be worth it.
For me this starts to give some clues to why someone running for President would continue weathering the political storm on his tax returns when virtually all candidates in recent years have disclosed and gotten it over with early. It does make sense that you might not choose to do so in Romney’s case, if you had something big to hide that could be even worse that taking the heat he’s been feeling.