LEE SHEPPARD, via Wendy Harris, Wendy_Harris at tax.org
Available for a limited number of interviews, Sheppard is a contributing editor at Tax Analysts, an influential provider of tax news and analysis. She just published Your Mitt Romney Tax Issues Cheat Sheet.
Sheppard said: “It is often said that the rich get rich and stay rich by watching every penny. Romney certainly fits that description. He looks for every tax angle, to a degree that is unbecoming in someone who would be the executive in command of the administrative apparatus that enforces the tax law.
“Romney is on record as saying that Americans wouldn’t want a candidate who overpaid his taxes — implying that anyone who does is a fool. But a wee bit more patriotism in the form of willingness to contribute to the commonwealth of a country that enabled him to get rich might be in order. He doesn’t realize that an elected official is not a private citizen anymore.”
Sheppard examines each of the major issues around Romney’s tax returns, including:
* Private equity. Issue: Cayman residence of funds.
“The places where some of Bain Capital’s numerous private equity funds are organized — Bermuda and the Cayman Islands — are tax havens. The widespread use of tax and banking havens by large U.S. multinationals and investment funds as an escape hatch from U.S. tax, banking, and securities laws, while offensive, is tolerated and even encouraged by U.S. law and administrative practice…”
* Profits interests. Issue: Zero valuation of profits interests on receipt and partner treatment thereafter.
“Managers of hedge funds, private equity funds, and other investment funds do not get regular salaries. They get part of the profits from the funds they manage, which are organized as partnerships. Their slice of the profits is called a profits interest (sometimes called carried interest). It is not taxed as wages.”
* IRAs. Issue: Can profits interests or special classes of shares in private equity target companies be contributed to IRAs?
“Romney has a gigantic IRA, which may hold as much as $100 million in assets. We do not know what it contains. We can only speculate. Given the applicable contribution limits, it is hard to see how the IRA got so big, even if Bain deals were hugely profitable. Regardless of what is in the IRA, serious valuation and self-dealing questions are raised…”
* Swiss bank account. Issue: Did Romney report it properly?
“A Romney grantor trust had a $3 million Swiss bank account at UBS that the trustee closed in 2010. Romney’s campaign said that the account was disclosed on foreign bank account reports and that U.S. tax was paid on the interest from it. The trustee closed the account because it no longer served the investment purpose for which it was intended. The account was a bet on the Swissie (The Boston Globe, Jan. 30, 2012).”