Who's Really Not Paying Their Taxes?

You would Mitt Romney would be an odd messenger to complain about how other people don't pay taxes, but he went there. Mitt Romney thinks that the 47% of American tax-filers who did not pay a federal income tax (although they paid taxes from their income, like payroll taxes), are mooching off the government, think of themselves as victims entitled to government checks, and have it way too good. We know that when you run the numbers, this 47% consists of people who make too little to pay federal income taxes, on-duty soldiers, and the elderly. We also know that Mitt Romney would like to raise taxes on these very same people - I mean, "broaden the base."

But let's get serious. Let's take a look at who are the people that really don't pay their fair share in taxes.

Exhibit A: Individuals who make their money from investment rather than work.

This is Exhibit A, because it is almost the worst of the offending groups. "Investment income" is taxed at a much lower, preferential rate than income from work. It has a top marginal rate of 15%, while earned income has a top marginal rate of 35%. Not only do people who fall under this category not pay income taxes at the same rate as income from work, they also don't pay a dime in payroll taxes - which is the greater federal tax burden on 82% of Americans. And for all the talking the Romney camp and the Republican party does about small business, they don't seem to notice that a small business owner or a freelance contractor (the smallest form of small business) pays more than the top marginal rate for Mr. Romney in their payroll taxes alone (both the employer and employee sides).

The cost to taxpayers for this? Around $50 billion a year, on average.

Exhibit B: Venture capitalists who term their compensation as "carried interest."

As I explained some months ago, this is why Mitt Romney's tax burden is 13.9%. He pays the capital gains rate on investment - even if the investment isn't his! Known as the "carried interest," this loophole in the tax code allows the likes of those who manage investments in companies like Bain Capital to claim their compensation as "part" of the money they make for their clients. Since the clients' intake is investment income (they are making the money from their investment with the firm), Romney gets to claim that so is his, and pay the low, low rate of less than 15% on incomes of $20 million a year.

You wanna talk about people who don't pay their taxes, Mr. Romney? How about you?

Exhibit C: People who hide their money in offshore accounts to avoid American taxes.

People - once again, like Mitt Romney (..hmm... think there's a theme going on here?) who have such disdain for the United States and the American people that they hide their money in Swiss bank accounts and other offshore accounts cost taxpayers dearly. How dearly? To the tune of at least $200 billion a year. How much of that is Mitt Romney's personal share? That's anybody's guess, since Romney won't reveal the sum total, but we know for a fact that he has millions hidden in Bermuda, the Caymans and in Swiss bank accounts.

Exhibit D: Big, multi-billion dollar corporations

A comprehensive study by Citizens for Tax Justice last year found that between 2008 and 2010, the 280 most profitable corporations in America paid less than 20% in federal income taxes, and 30 of those companies paid net zero taxes over the three year period. That's right, 30 of the most profitable corporations paid no income taxes over three years. Zero. Zilch. Nada. And 67 more paid less than 10% over those years. That's a combined 37% of the most profitable corporations in America that paid about as much or less of its income in taxes than do the working poor.

That's not all. Some companies paid not just zero taxes, but they got money back from the government! Talk about welfare. General Electric, a company that makes $10 billion a year in profits, got a tax refund of $4.7 billion over those three years. In total, these 280 most profitable companies with a total of $1.4 trillion in pre-tax profits garnered a total taxpayer largess of $223 billion. Still wanna talk about who smooches off the government, Mr. Romney?

Off-shoring corporations and individuals have parked $32 trillion of wealth in tax shelters, costing not just the United States but other countries countless amounts of money.

Recap.

So, let's recap. It's not the poor who don't pay their taxes. It's by and large the super rich and multi-billion dollar multinational corporations that get away with paying either ridiculously low taxes or no taxes at all. In fact, Paul Ryan's budget would eliminate all taxes on Mitt Romney and those like him, by reducing the capital gains rate to zero. Mitt Romney's own plan would give the super rich the lion's share of an additional $5 trillion tax cut.

Do the numbers. If we simply could close the offshore loophole, stop the preferential tax treatment for "investment income" (read: income for rich people) over "earned income" (read: income for peasants) and stop subsidizing the most profitable corporations in America (just stop subsidizing, not even do anything to their actual tax rates), we would have $473 billion more in revenue. That's almost half way to close the deficit.

So here's a challenge for you, Mr. Romney. Stop scapegoating the working poor and anyone who needs a hand up. Stop scapegoating seniors and our soldiers on the line of battle. Stop scapegoating students who don't have rich enough parents they can borrow money from. You wanna talk about people who don't pay their taxes? Then you better come at us with more than a talking point about "government dependency." You better be ready to talk about those who truly skirt taxes, .. you know, people like you.

Oh, and by the way, release your tax returns.