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Mitt Romney declines to release tax returns

By Melanie Mason and Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times –

LANCASTER, N.H. — Facing increasing scrutiny over the profits he made while working in private equity, Mitt Romney said Thursday he took advantage of opportunities to save on his taxes on that income like anyone else would. But just what were those opportunities is unclear without his tax returns, and don’t expect to see those any time soon.

Reporters and rival campaigns have been poring over Romney’s 15-year record at Bain Capital, a private equity firm he launched in 1984. Romney resigned from the firm in 1999, but a New York Times story reported this week that Romney continued to reap a share of Bain’s profits through February 2009. Much of those profits could be considered “carried interest,” and therefore be eligible for 15 percent tax rate on capital gains, substantially lower than the 35 percent the wealthy typically pay on their income.

But determining if Romney’s retirement deal did qualify under the lower tax rates requires a look at the former Massachusetts governor’s tax returns, and Romney told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Wednesday that he has no plans to do so — at least, not for now.

He stuck with that stance Thursday, saying on the trail, “I can tell you we follow the tax laws, and if there’s an opportunity to save taxes, we like anybody else in this country will follow that opportunity. But we don’t have any current plans to release tax returns, but never say never.

“We’ve released of course all of the information required by law, which is a pretty extensive release,” he said. “But down the road we’ll see what happens if I’m the nominee.”

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, said in a statement that by refusing to make public his tax returns Romney “is defying a practice to which every party nominee, Republican and Democrat, has adhered for decades.”

“Why does Gov. Romney feel like he can play by a different set of rules?” LaBolt asked.

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