Speculation over Romney's tax return is mind over matter. He doesn't mind. It doesn't matter.
Let's get one thing straight: Mitt Romney is not hiding information about offshore bank accounts on his tax returns. I've heard it. You've heard it. It's laughable. Who hides things on their tax returns? Isn't the point of an offshore account to keep income off your tax return? If so, how is looking at his going to prove that he's involved in some Cayman Island tax scam? Give the guy credit. If he's hiding money from the IRS, there's not much chance of you or me catching him doing it, least of all by looking at his tax return.
Another thing: Romney is almost certainly not a tax cheat. I mean really, the guy is running for president of the United States and has created an enormous issue about his tax returns because he won't release them to the public. That's not waving the proverbial "red flag." That's waving the red cape in front of the bull! You don't think someone at the IRS has noticed and taken a little peek at his returns just to make sure nothing looks suspicious? To find an irregularity on a guy like Romney's tax return has to be how legends are made at the IRS. I'd bet Romney's tax return is squeaky clean as far as tax law is concerned. Ole!
Least of all is Romney likely to be worried about highlighting what is commonly perceived to be inequities in the tax code. He showed us his 2010 tax return, which revealed that he paid an overall tax rate a bit higher than 13 percent on income of about $20 million, and has said that 2011's tax return will show about the same thing once it is filed. If he paid less tax than this in prior years, it has to be because he realized huge losses in business or investments in 2009, 2008, 2007 ... which, when you think about it, puts him in the same sinking financial boat as the rest of the country during those bleak years, albeit wearing a substantial life vest. I don't see how this could hurt his position in the race for the presidency.
All said, though, there is no doubt that Romney is hiding something, and most likely it is something that would be very damaging to his chances at becoming the next president of this country. We know he's not an idiot. At the very least a J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard earn you the benefit of the doubt when doing a cost/benefit analysis on whether or not to turn your tax returns over to the public amidst a firestorm controversy that could render your campaign a smoking hole in the ground. We say, "What a fool. This is killing him." He says (to himself), "You don't know what I know."
You want a prediction? Romney won't buckle under pressure and release his returns. Even with this controversy dogging him, Romney is still running neck and neck in the presidential race. Handing over his tax returns prior to 2010 will, at the very least, do him no good and, most likely, will harm his efforts. The issue is so widely known by now that it is already reflected in people's imaginations about tax shenanigans and, more importantly, the polls. In short, as long as he keeps his secret(s) on his tax returns, this matter can do him no more damage. The incriminating information is secure. Assuming only he, his wife, and his CPA signed the returns, the information contained in them won't be leaked. The IRS vault is secure. A leak from there would be catastrophic and give millions of new tax protesters ammunition for not filing tax returns.
Still we love secrets and would love even more to know what Romney's is. My guess is that we are generally thinking too large in terms of numbers. Just because it involves his tax returns doesn't mean this has much to do with taxes. Tax returns contain information that is more revealing than just income and deductions. It could be something as small as a cash contribution to an objectionable or embarrassing charitable organization or as significant as a major medical condition. Dependents? Lawsuit settlements, for and/or against?
Romney has basically invited us to use our imaginations in this and guess what he doesn't want us to know. We might as well do it. But keep in mind that it is for entertainment purposes only. The polls don't lie. It doesn't matter what we come up with.
Roger Marolt reveals his secrets every Wednesday in the Snowmass Sun. Tell him yours at email@example.com.