Breathtaking Romney: $362,000 In Speaking Fees Is 'Not Very Much - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Breathtaking Romney: $362,000 In Speaking Fees Is 'Not Very Much'

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WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney has a new definition of "not much": $362,000.

On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate finally admitted that the effective tax rate he has been paying for the last several years is likely below that of middle-class workers, which would also include military servicemembers.

In Greenville, S.C., Romney was asked directly what his effective tax rate is. It was a hot topic of discussion at Monday night's debate, at which Romney repeatedly declined to fully commit to release his tax returns.

"It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything," said Romney on Tuesday. "For the past 10 years, my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income or earned annual income. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. Then, I get speakers fees from time to time, but not very much."

Not very much? According to a report in USA Today, over the course of a year, Romney earned more than $362,000 in speakers fees -- a period during which he joked he was "unemployed."

His rival, Newt Gingrich, said that he made $60,000 per speech -- defending himself against the charge that he served as a lobbyist for Freddie Mac, for which he was paid over $1.6 million for strategic advice.

Romney has an estimated wealth of between $190 million to $250 million, according to financial disclosure reports. Upon leaving Bain Capital in 1999, he negotiated a retirement package guaranteeing him a percentage of the firm's profits.

A single worker who earns more than $35,350 in income pays a 25 percent tax rate on earnings above that amount. Many families that earn less than $100,000 per year pay an effective rate of just above that, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Romney's wealthy welfare comes from a loophole in the tax code that taxes long-term capital gains at a 15 percent rate. Private equity executives are then "paid" with capital gains instead of regular income. The executives, such as Romney, then tell the Internal Revenue Service that they were not being reimbursed a salary for work they performed but instead were merely investors reaping the rewards of risk taking. Happily for the executives, any investments that go belly up and lead to bankruptcy and mass layoffs can be counted against the earnings, which amounts to a tax subsidy for failed projects.

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