Home / Opinion / Plurality says candidates should release 5-12 years of tax returns

Plurality says candidates should release 5-12 years of tax returns

Nearly three-quarters of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll think presidential candidates should release more than two years of income tax returns, with a plurality-42 percent-favoring five to 12 years.
 
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has come under renewed pressure in recent days to release more tax returns. Romney has released his tax returns for 2010 and an estimate for 2011. (He filed for an extension this spring and says he will release the complete 2011 return when it is filed.)
 
Romney said last week that he would follow the "precedent" set in the 2008 presidential race by Sen. John McCain, who released two years of tax returns. As a candidate that year, Barack Obama released seven years of returns; he now has released 12 years of returns.
 
Among poll participants who identified themselves as Republicans, nearly 60 percent favor the release of more than two years of tax returns, compared with more than 90 percent of Democrats.
 
Two years of tax returns would be sufficient for 17 percent of Snap Poll respondents. Releasing one or two years of returns is favored by 28 percent of Republicans but only 6 percent of Democrats.
 
According to FactCheck.org, McCain is the first major-party presidential candidate since 1980 to release fewer than five tax returns. During that period, Republican Robert Dole set the high mark with 30 in 1996; the low was five released by Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988.
 
Roughly 700 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted July 23 and 24.
 
How many years of income tax returns should a presidential candidate release?
Zero: 10%
1-2: 17%
3-4: 15%
5-12: 42%
More than 12: 15%

Among Republicans:
Zero: 18%
1-2: 28%
3-4:  20%
5-12: 27% 
More than 12: 7%

Among Democrats:
Zero: 3%
1-2: 6%
3-4: 12%
5-12:  59%
More than 12: 20%

What is your political affiliation?
Democrat: 27%
Republican: 35%
Non-affiliated: 35%
Other: 3%

COMMENTS:
Two years are sufficient. This is just another ruse created by the Obama campaign team to deflect his deplorable economic record. So Mitt Romney is a rich guy. Who cares? Isn’t that what most Americans aspire to? If he paid a lower overall tax rate by using legal and allowable deductions, the fault, if any, lies within the tax system. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.
—Kat Wright
 
It seems a reasonable precedent has been set at approximately 10 years of tax returns. No candidate wants to release any information that will potentially harm his campaign, and Romney knows, with the Occupy Wall Street and tea party movements, paying little or no tax will not make him look good no matter how legal his tax returns were. We need to make a better system with all of these subjects, tax policy, money distribution and how we elect a president.
—Joe Wierzbowski, Plymouth Photo Studio
 
I don’t see why a candidate’s private tax return should be a matter of public interest. Obviously, Romney is trying to hide something here, and that doesn’t look good for him, but it seems weird to demand it. Should we demand tax returns from candidates for Senate? For governor? For county executive?
—Matthew D. Wilson
 
The only reason someone would not release tax returns is if he has something to hide. We should know as much as possible about our president.
—Donald A. Dinero,
TWI Learning Partnership
 
  Why is the releasing of tax returns a prerequisite to being president? What’s next? Medical records? Blood draws? If you are savvy enough to make it that far in politics, I am sure you have figured out how to lie and cheat at a level that ensures that you can manipulate your tax returns.
—Dale Ball
 
  This is an element of integrity. Anyone seeking to be U.S. president must offer unrestricted disclosure of any aspect of their past decade that might give the American voter insight on their integrity, values and most importantly judgment.
—Dave Kennedy, Webster
 
  How about college records?
—Marty Cournan
 
  I’m not sure there’s a magic number, but when a candidate fights it as hard as Romney is, you have to wonder.
—David Lamb, Rochester
 
Releasing an original birth certificate would be more important than copies of tax returns, in my view.
—Mike Charland, Webster
 
  The more transparent a politician, the better. That goes for employment records, police records, health records, education records, personal affiliations, organization memberships and credit records. The public should be able to make a decision with regard to whom they want to be represented by based on a thorough review of professional as well as personal qualifications. In times of high ethics, character and integrity, I would not have this opinion. But in an effort to stem the tide of lies, corruption, misrepresentation, waste and policies contrary to the majority will, as Nancy said: "It’s time to drain the swamp"! My suggestions would be a good step forward. I wonder if the RICO laws would be enforceable with regard to politicians.
—Lou Romano

On average, Americans read a total of two non-fiction books after the completion of their highest level of education. Assuming the IRS knows fact from fiction, who is going to read this stuff? Who cares for any responsible reason? It only serves for fodder for the masses of people who have already decided what they want to hear. How about we Americans decide what the “correct” tax return from a candidate looks like before we start throwing stones? That would be the ultimate in political correctness.
—Bill Lanigan

If we had the fair tax, you wouldn’t have to worry about it.
—Devon Michaels, Chili

What is he hiding?
—Stanley Hilt

Really, if there is nothing to hide release whatever number it takes as THEIR tax return shouldn’t be the focus of the issues at hand. Here we go again. These items (tax returns, birth certificates, etc.) should be part of any candidate’s "submission" before their name is even thrown in the hat to BE a candidate. Get on with the task at hand stop talking about speeding tickets in 1989 and items that don’t matter. Reduce the debt, stop the runaway government, produce jobs, get the economy on track and be sure above all this country REMAINS the best country in world!
—David J. Topian, Westminster Real Estate Advisors

A presidential candidate can release or not release as many tax returns as he/she wants to. It depends on what and how the person wants to communicate with voters and citizens.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results

The IRS is responsible for auditing tax returns. What is on those returns is between the individual (or business) and not the concern of the general public. Furthermore the information is used only for political leverage by distorting the information. Income is not a qualifier for public office. Ability to govern (manage), character and integrity are what is important.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

Zero or all—if the IRS is doing its job, there should be no issues, and if there are no issues then other than a person’s sense of privacy, they should not be concerned with releasing them all. The issue is a biased press that will pour through every nook and cranny, probably on one candidate more than the other to sway opinions.
—Peter Short

Romney wants to "follow the lead" of McCain? Well, let’s see: McCain only released two years of tax records and picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. Outcome: He lost! It’s obvious to everyone why Romney won’t release more records, and "it ain’t good."
—Monica Leubner

Why is the national media obsessed with Mitt Romney’s tax returns but seemingly unconcerned about serious matters such as the almost $16 trillion deficit, the stagnating economy, leaks of classified information, Fast and Furious, etc.?
—Karen Zilora, President, Creative Scanning Solutions, Inc.

A candidate should release whatever information she chooses and let the voters decide what that means. We know Romney is rich, and that he earned it himself (or maybe he didn’t per the president who’s taking credit for killing Osama Bin Laden all on his own). Interesting that in a matter of days we know more about education of the Aurora shooter Mr. Holmes than we do about President Obama’s education. And that’s more important. When I vote for someone, I want to know how smart he is, not how rich he is. I’d rather have 10 years of Obama’s education records than his tax returns.
—Peter Durant, Nixon Peabody LLP

Same rules for the Democratic and Republican candidate! The last year should be included. Tax-Return Day was April 15, as every year!
— Ingo H. Leubner

Don’t give a Hoot about either Romney or Obama tax returns. Both are part of Obama’s fabled "1 percent" bracket, and I have every confidence that if there were red flags in their returns, the IRS would be right on top of it. The entire issue is to draw attention away from the serious problems that Obama cannot handle or even discuss. Typical liberal nonsense, create an issue/problem, parade around so-called victims, demonize anyone who disagrees, and never address the facts.
—Al Kempf

They should release ALL of them. They’re a public figure, and their finances should be a matter of public record. I don’t care if they are Republican, Democrat, or whomever—as a member of the government you give up the right to privacy in your financial transactions. Without transparency, there is no reason to trust the candidate.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed, Inc.

"Methinks thee dost protest too much." Really, doesn’t it make you wonder about what he seems to be trying to hide? Where is the transparency?
—Marjorie Campaigne, Margie’s Green Irene Mart

Transparency should be a given. Refusal to release such information gives the impression that you have something to hide.
—Cyndy Gayden, Frontier Communications

I don’t even like the relevance of it other than to see how much money a candidate donates to charities.
—Daniel Mossien, architect

Romney should do what his father did when he was in contention. We all know what he’s hiding, several years of paying little to zero taxes. At the very least he should match what he writes off to his religion. Who’s going to pay for the military, infrastructure and welfare of those who can’t pat?
—Pete Bonenfant

Seriously. We’re talking about the U.S. presidency. If there’s something a candidate is ashamed of or wants to conceal on tax returns, they shouldn’t be in the race.
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT

Paying taxes may not be fun, but it’s a responsibility and anyone aspiring to be president should show that they respect that responsibility and that they always have.
—Tony Vecchiotti, The Northwoods Corp.

I’m not sure what releasing the tax information means to the average voter. In as much as many of them will not understand them anyway we rely on an expert to tell us what they find that is unusual and where the money is hidden. I would propose that the last 5 years tax returns of any person running for political office be 1.) Reviewed by an independent accountant and the results published and 2.) Audited by the IRS and their findings published. Any questionable deductions or bending of the rules, either legal or not, should be highlighted. Other items such as tax shelters, questionable charities, gifts, etc. should be listed. Any contributions from donors or businesses, including those of the candidates businesses, should be listed. In a sense we are trying to determine the honesty of the candidate relative to the rules we all have to live by.
—Bob Stein

Like to see birth certificates first.
—Steve Wichtowski

This poll is ridiculous. Focus on the campaign issues not how many tax returns are important. If the rules are one to two or five to 10, then go with that or change the rules. How about taking a poll on what is important: Like is the government doing enough to get people back to work? Are we doing enough to deal with reducing the debt? Are we doing enough to find qualified people to run for public office? Are our foreign relations better than they were four years ago? Will the Affordable Care Act help or hurt the economy? Can we find ways to reduce violence in our society? Are parents doing enough to be role models for children? I just don’t care about how many tax returns are out there—if someone finds either candidate guilty of tax fraud, I will listen. Otherwise I would hope everyone will focus on the issues. Our country is losing its way very rapidly.
—Tom Nientimp, Victor

We’re being asked to believe that these candidates have our interests at heart. Is there any recent evidence that they have any idea what it’s like to be in our shoes? Do they truly appreciate that a country’s economy is tied to the well-being of its middle class? China understands that; it may well be that we do not. Our "leaders"— if you can reasonably describe the members of our dead-locked, polarized Congress as leaders—seem only to have their own welfare at heart. Maybe it’s time to establish minimum credentials to be in Congress or in the presidency? We already have those minimum credentials for doctors, pilots, computer programmers, etc. Why not those we hire to govern?
—Bill Crocca

A presidential candidate should release 10 years of tax returns. This gives the electorate a good look at their investing philosophy and strategies. This year, Mitt Romney should release his tax returns from 2000. This would let everyone see how he navigated the "lost decade" of financial progress 2000-2010 that was so difficult for many in the middle class. It would show us how he profited from his capital company investments even though he claims no association since 1999. Transparency is critical as we select national leaders.
—Mary Lynn Vickers, owner, The Phantom Chef PCS

For more comments, go to rbjdaily.com.  To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll,
sign up for the Daily Report at staging.rbj.net/dailyreport.

7/27/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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