“Cayman Baining”: Mitt Romney Invests In Several Bain Funds That Use Offshore Tax Havens To Boost Profits
Mitt Romney yesterday admitted for the first time that his tax rate is about 15 percent, lower than the rate paid by millions of middle class families. Romney is able to pay such a low rate (even though the top income tax rate is 35 percent) because his income comes overwhelmingly from investments and he is able to use a pernicious loopholeavailable to wealthy money managers.
Romney has been refusing to release his tax returns, finally conceding to releasing his 2011 return after he files it in April. However, only releasing his 2011 returns would give Romney the opportunity to keep under wraps some of the financial engineering he may have done to avoid taxes before the last calendar year. As Reuters noted, those returns “could shed light on how Romney and Bain use offshore strategies to avoid taxes.” In fact, ABC News reported today that Romney has millions of dollars parked in several Bain funds that are set up in tax shelters in order to help their investors avoid U.S. taxes:
Although it is not apparent on his financial disclosure form, Mitt Romney has millions of dollars of his personal wealth in investment funds set up in the Cayman Islands, a notorious Caribbean tax haven…As one of the wealthiest candidates to run for president in recent times, Romney has used a variety of techniques to help minimize the taxes on his estimated $250 million fortune. In addition to paying the lower tax rate on his investment income, Romney has as much as $8 million invested in at least 12 funds listed on a Cayman Islands registry. Another investment, which Romney reports as being worth between $5 million and $25 million, shows up on securities records as having been domiciled in the Caymans.
Even if these funds don’t help Romney directly dodge U.S. taxes, which the campaign claims they don’t, they convey a host of advantages to Bain and Romney, including “higher management fees and greater foreign interest” from investors looking to avoid U.S. taxes. As the Washington Post’s Suzy Khimm noted, “just one of these offshore-linked funds — Bain Capital Fund VIII, based in the Cayman Islands — generated $1 million for the Romneys in 2010.”
Offshore funds are attractive to investors, since they help with tax evasion, and more investor interest translates into more profit for Bain and Romney. As we’ve noted, Romney has a lucrative retirement deal with Bain that is paying him millions each year.
In contrast to Romney’s steadfast refusal to release his tax returns, George Romney (Mitt’s father) released 12 years worth of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. Those returns showed that the elder Romney paid a 37 percent effective tax rate.
By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, January 18, 2012
For the last day or so, a few of us have been trying to get Grover Norquist’s group to say whether GOP opposition to extending the payroll tax cut — which Obama wants — constitutes a “tax increase” and a violation of Norquist’s infamous anti-tax pledge.
Norquist’s spokesman is now clarifying that the group isn’t yet willing to say.
Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes has been signed by virtually every Republican in Congress, and Norquist has clearly stated that the failure to extend the Bush tax cuts would constitute a “tax increase.” The question now is this: With Republicans now opposing an extension of the payroll tax cut, which impacts workers but not employers, will Norquist’s group also declare the GOP opposition tantamount to a tax increase that violates the pledge?
John Kartch, a spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform, tells me that “one would have to see the final legislation” before making the call one way or the other, in order to determine ”what is the net effect on total taxes.”
The problem here, though, is that this doesn’t deal with the possibility of the payroll tax cut simply expiring through Congress doing nothing. If Congress doesn’t extend the payroll tax cut, as Republicans want, it will simply expire on January 1st.
So it’s fair to ask whether Norquist’s group — which wields great influence over Republicans in Congress — thinks that Republicans who favor doing nothing and letting the payroll tax cut expire are hiking taxes and violating the group’s pledge. And for now, the group isn’t prepared to say.
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, August 23, 2011
Here’s how to negotiate, GOP-style: Begin by making outrageous demands. Bully your opponents into giving you almost all of what you want. Rather than accept the deal, add a host of radical new demands. Observe casually that you wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the hostage you’ve taken — the nation’s well-being. To the extent possible, look and sound like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”
This strategy has worked so well for Republicans that it’s no surprise they’re using it again, this time in the unnecessary fight over what should be a routine increase in the debt ceiling. This time, however, something different is happening: President Obama seems to be channeling Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver.” At a news conference last Wednesday, Obama’s response to the GOP was, essentially, “You talkin’ to me?”
Obama’s in-your-face attitude seems to have thrown Republicans off their stride. They thought all they had to do was convince everyone they were crazy enough to force an unthinkable default on the nation’s financial obligations. Now they have to wonder if Obama is crazy enough to let them.
He probably isn’t. But the White House has kept up the pressure, asserting that the real deadline for action by Congress to avoid a default isn’t Aug. 2, as the Treasury Department said, but July 22; it takes time to write the needed legislation, officials explained. Tick, tick, tick . . .
“Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time,” Obama said, gratuitously — but effectively — comparing his daughters’ industry with congressional sloth. “It is impressive. They don’t wait until the night before. They’re not pulling all-nighters. They’re 13 and 10. Congress can do the same thing. If you know you’ve got to do something, just do it.”
Obama’s pushing and poking are aimed at Republicans who control the House, and what he wants them to “just do” is abandon the uncompromising position that any debt-ceiling deal has to include big, painful budget cuts but not a single cent of new tax revenue.
The president demands that Congress also eliminate “tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires . . . oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.” Without these modest increases in revenue, he says, the government will have to cut funding for medical research, food inspection and the National Weather Service. Also, presumably, whatever federal support goes to puppies and apple pie.
In truth, some non-millionaires who never fly on corporate jets would also lose tax breaks under the president’s proposal. And it’s hard to believe that the first thing the government would do, if Congress provides no new revenue, is stop testing ground beef for bacteria. But Obama is right that the cuts would be draconian — and he’s right to insist that House Republicans face reality.
My view, for what it’s worth, is that now is the wrong time for spending cuts or tax increases — that it’s ridiculous to do anything that might slow the lumbering economic recovery, even marginally. But if there have to be cuts, then Republicans must be forced to move off the no-new-revenue line they have drawn in the sand.
Even if they move just an inch, the nation’s prospects become much brighter. This fight is that important.
Every independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon panel that has looked at the deficit problem has reached the same conclusion: The gap between spending and revenue is much too big to be closed by budget cuts alone. With fervent conviction but zero evidence, Tea Party Republicans believe otherwise — and Establishment Republicans, who know better, are afraid to contradict them.
The difficult work of putting the federal government on sound fiscal footing can’t begin as long as a majority in the House rejects simple arithmetic on ideological grounds.
“I’ve met with the leaders multiple times,” Obama said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “At a certain point, they need to do their job.” The job he means is welcoming fantasy-loving Republicans to the real world, and it has to be done.
The stakes are perilously high, but Obama does have a doomsday option: If all else fails, he can assert that a section of the 14th Amendment — “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned” — makes the debt limit unconstitutional and instructs him to take any measures necessary to avoid default.
Maybe that’s why, in this stare-down, the president doesn’t seem inclined to blink.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 4, 2011
Some of our nation’s biggest corporations are planning a tax holiday and they want you to pick up the tab.
Actually, you already pay for their routine tax avoidance through the use of tax havens in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and elsewhere. These accounting acrobatics cost the U.S. Treasury $100 billion a year. Now they want Congress to pass a special tax holiday for money they “repatriate” back to the United States.
There’s nothing patriotic about this repatriation being pushed by Google, Cisco, Pfizer and other companies in the Win America campaign. To sell the tax holiday, they claim it will produce a burst of jobs and investment. In fact, Congress passed a “one-time-only” tax holiday in 2004 with similar promises. Instead, it produced a burst of shareholder dividends and stock buybacks, which goosed the pay of CEOs.
Corporations laid off workers and shifted even more income and investment to offshore tax havens in the wake of the 2004 tax holiday.
“Why should we reward firms for successfully gaming the tax system when we in turn are called on to make up the missing tax revenues?” Edward Kleinbard, former chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, told Bloomberg. “Much of these earnings overseas are reaped from an enormous shell game: Firms move their taxable income from the U.S. and other major economies — where their customers and key employees are in reality located — to tax havens.”
A favorite accounting trick is transferring a patent from the U.S. parent company to a subsidiary — often a shell company — in a tax haven. Profits from the patent go largely untaxed offshore while the costs of development, marketing and management remain in the U.S., where they are taken as tax deductions.
Pfizer was the largest beneficiary of the last tax holiday, bringing $37 billion back to the United States and paying just $1.7 billion in federal corporate income taxes. It laid off 10,000 American workers in the following months. The U.S. is the world’s most profitable drug market and yet over the last three years, Pfizer — maker of Lipitor, Viagra and much more — has reported $7.9 billion in U.S. losses while claiming $37.8 billion in profits in the rest of the world. Pfizer, like the rest of Big Pharma, is heavily subsidized by taxpayer-funded research at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere. It should not be rewarded with another tax holiday.
Bloomberg reported that “Google reduced its income taxes by $3.1 billion over three years by shifting income to Ireland, then the Netherlands, and ultimately to Bermuda.” What a corporate ingrate. Google would not exist without the Internet, and the Internet grew out of U.S. government research beginning in the 1960s. In the 1990s, the U.S. National Science Foundation funded the Digital Library Initiative research at Stanford University that Larry Page and Sergey Brin, now billionaires, developed into Google. Brin was also supported by an NSF graduate student fellowship.
Increasingly, U.S. multinational corporations want to benefit from government spending on education, infrastructure, research, health care and so on without paying for it. Today, large corporations pay, on average, 18 percent of their profits in federal income taxes and as a group contribute just 9 percent toward federal government bills, down from 32 percent in 1952. The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation says a new tax holiday would cost $79 billion.
A dozen national and state business organizations led by Business for Shared Prosperity recently wrote members of Congress urging them to oppose the tax holiday. The letter said, “When powerful large U.S. corporations avoid their fair share of taxes, they undermine U.S. competitiveness, contribute to the national debt and shift more of the tax burden to domestic businesses, especially small businesses that create most of the new jobs.”
There is no excuse for repeating a policy that’s a proven failure. It would be even worse this time around, as corporations would redouble their efforts to shift profits overseas in anticipation of the next tax holiday. Congress should close the tax loopholes that reward companies for transferring U.S. profits, jobs and investment abroad — not encourage them.
Real patriots pay their fair share of taxes. They don’t run out on the bill.
By: Holly Sklar and Scott Klinger, CommonDreams.org, July 4, 2011