Through the last week of tax return follies, Mitt Romney has repeatedly stated that he’s released two years of tax returns and he’ll release no more. In fact, he’s yet to release even a single complete tax return. He filed for an extension for his 2011 returns and says he’ll release the final returns later this year when he files them. The 2010 return was actually incomplete. And what was left out points toward a question that a lot of reporters and tax experts have been wondering about but have been surprisingly reticent to discuss publicly.
Huffington Post noted yesterday that Romney never released his so-called FBAR documents, special forms required from filers who have bank accounts in other countries. But the issue actually came up in a conference call back in January. Particularly about a Swiss bank account with UBS.
In that call, Romney blind trust advisor Brad Malt was asked whether Romney had “filed any and all required FBARs in a timely fashion.” To which he responded: “The people required to file FBARs are Mrs. Romney and myself, and we have filed all FBARs.”
The campaign has yet to release those FBARs. Why they’ve gotten pressed so little on it is a bit of a mystery to me.
But here’s where it gets interesting. Back in 2009, the IRS instituted a major tax amnesty program for folks who had previously secreted money in Swiss and other offshore banks. The amnesty stemmed from a settlement the US government had reached with UBS that year. Those who came forward voluntarily in the prescribed period of time could pay their back taxes, pay their fines but avoid any criminal penalties.
So, did Romney or anyone acting on his behalf or for some entity he controlled take advantage of the 2009 UBS amnesty program? You’ll note the reporter’s question flagged above asked if all FBARs were filed “in a timely fashion.” Malt didn’t address that part of the question. He just said all had been filed. So in addition to the question of the amnesty, were FBARs retroactively filed?
Given the radioactive-ness of the whole Swiss bank account issue I’m a little surprised that this whole thing hasn’t gotten more attention. And I’m also surprised since to the best of my knowledge — hard to prove a negative — Romney or his representatives have never been asked whether he took advantage of the amnesty program.
Now, before concluding, there’s another piece of information that possibly points in the other direction.
Back in January when Mitt was first getting raked over the coals over his taxes, he had to amend his 2007 filing to the FEC. This is a general filing he had to make to run for President in 2008. In that filing he did note the UBS account. But UBS has American and Swiss branches. And he didn’t note that it was in a Swiss UBS account, not an American one. Big omission. Still, if Romney was one of those folks trying to hide the account from the IRS, would he really list it on an FEC filing, albeit while omitting what country it was in? Seems hard to figure.
But for now, why haven’t the FBARs been released? Without them, the 2010 returns are incomplete. And simple question: did Romney or any of his assigns participate in the 2009 amnesty program?
Late Update: Some readers suggest that the FBAR is not usually considered part of the ‘tax return’ per se. It’s another annual filing requirement to the IRS for people who store their money in overseas bank accounts. Here’s a relevant passage from the IRS page on the topic …
The FBAR is not filed with the filer’s federal income tax return. The granting, by the IRS, of an extension to file federal income tax returns does not extend the due date for filing an FBAR. You may not request an extension for filing the FBAR. The FBAR is an annual report and must be received by the Department of the Treasury in Detroit, MI, at one of the two addresses below, on or before June 30th of the year following the calendar year being reported.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.