How Obama Wants To Prevent Future Mitt Romneys From Sheltering Massive Amounts Of Wealth From Taxation

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Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET

President Obama’s budget calls for preventing wealthy people — such as, cough, Mitt Romney — from deferring taxation on vast sums of money by circumventing laws that limit the amount of money people are allowed to contribute to individual retirement accounts.

Per the budget, “Individual Retirement Accounts and other tax-preferred savings vehicles are intended to help middle class families save for retirement. But under current rules, some wealthy individuals are able to accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts, substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving.”

But how would they close this loophole?One way experts believe financial managers avoid the current annual contribution limit to IRAs is by using IRAs to participate in investments and assigning those investment interests a nominal value vastly below fair market.

Obama wouldn’t curb this practice directly. Instead his budget calls for an overall cap of about $3 million on the net balance across all of an individuals’ tax-preferred accounts. Only have one IRA? It can hold $3 million. Have three? Their holdings must sum to $3 million or less.

The $3 million figure is approximate. A formula would set the cap at a level just high enough to finance an annual distribution of no more than $205,000 per year in retirement for someone retiring this year.

By limiting the extent to which wealthy people can skirt the current annual limits and thus hide money from the IRS, the administration expects such a rule would raise $9 billion over 10 years.

Fortunately for Romney himself, the rule probably won’t become law anytime soon. And even if it did, according to the Treasury Department, it wouldn’t take effect until the beginning of next year and then only apply to contributions and accruals thereafter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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