Election 2014  
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10 Theories About What Mitt Romney's Really Hiding in Those Tax Returns

Everyone knows it's something that would damage an already weak candidate, but nobody knows exactly what it is.

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It's possible that releasing his returns could clarify exactly what involvement he had with Bain after 1999. And that might reveal that Romney was, contrary to his claims, involved in Bain's decision to invest in Stericycle, a medical waste company that disposed of aborted fetuses. Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, told Fox News: "If he released more documents, like further tax returns, we would know the extent of his involvement at Bain during this period.”

8. Is Mitt a Felon?

Relatedly, in 2011, Mitt Romney signed a financial disclosure form and sent it to the Federal Election Commission. In it, he stated emphatically that he had no active role in the company after February 1999. That claim appears to be contradicted by a number of other documents.

It's a felony to lie on an FEC financial disclosure form. Some forms of tax evasion are also felonies. Mitt's tax returns might offer proof that he committed a crime.

9. Are There Other Non-Disclosures?

There's lying on a disclosure form, and then there's not filing required forms. The LA Times reports that “at least 23 funds and partnerships listed in [Mitt's] 2010 tax returns did not show up or were not listed in the same fashion on Romney’s most recent financial disclosure, including 11 based in low-tax foreign countries such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.”

More tax returns might reveal other investments that Romney has failed to disclose, as he is required to do by law.

10. There's Nothing – It's Just His Sense of Entitlement

Esquire's James Wolcott doesn't think there's any there there. Sure, Romney's tax returns would provide an object lesson in how the ultra-rich avoid paying their fair share of taxes, but everyone already knows that those at the top of the pile game the system. For Wolcott, the issue comes down to Romney refusing to bow to the little people on principle.

It is helpful always to remind yourself that, in the mind of Willard Romney, there are only two kinds of people — himself and his family, and the Help. Throughout his career, and especially throughout his brief political career, Romney has treated the Help with a kind of lordly disdain...

The Help has no right to go pawing through the family books, giggling at the obvious loopholes and tax dodges, running amok through all the tax shelters, and probably getting their chocolate-y fingerprints all over the pages of the Romney family ledger. And, certainly, those members of the Help in the employ of the president of the United States, who is also part of the Help, have no right to use the nearly comically ostentatious wealth of the Romney as some sort of scrimey political weapon. He does not have to answer to the Help. I mean, jeepers, he's running for office.

This isn't stubbornness. That's often an acquired trait. What this is, fundamentally, is contempt. Contempt for the process, and contempt for the people who make their living in that process, and contempt for the people whose lives depend on that process. There are rules for the Help with which Willard Romney never has had to abide, and he has no intention of starting now. My dear young fellow, this simply is not done.

The Most Likely Explanation

Given Romney's refusal to release his returns, this kind of speculation is entirely predictable. But the most likely reason Romney doesn't want to release his returns is that they'll cast a bright light on the aggressive tax avoidance strategies the super-rich use every day – strategies David Cay Johnston outlined so well in his excellent book, Perfectly Legal. The Romney campaign keeps assuring us that he paid all taxes required by law, and that very well might be the problem.

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