August 8th, 2012
07:31 PM ET

Is Romney accountable for the Marriott's use of an abusive tax shelter? Does it add up?

The tax war continues as the fall election draws near. Two respected tax experts wrote an op-ed criticizing Romney’s personal tax strategies, saying “A key troubling public manifestation of Romney's apparent insensitivity to tax obligations is his role in Marriott International’s abusive tax shelter activity.”

Does the accusation add up? Mitt Romney was the chief of the audit committee for Marriott from 1993-1998 where he oversaw the company's tax returns. During Romney's tenure, Marriott International was accused of using a tax scheme. In court documents Marriott denied the claims.

Daniel Shaviro, a professor at NYU told OutFront that the scheme, known as Son of Boss, was “a truly abusive tax shelter...the most abusive in US history.”

The bottom line? It is fair to hold Romney accountable for Marriott's use of an abusive tax shelter and to say that Romney knows a lot about what's right and wrong with tax shelters. But does the accusation add up that Romney's sign-off on Son of Boss is a “troubling public manifestation of Romney's apparent sensitivity” to what is right?

Judd Legum, the editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress.org, told CNN’s Erin Burnett, “I do think it’s fair Erin, and the reason why is that Mitt Romney has put his business career… at the center of this campaign. And with that you have to take the good and you also have to take the bad.”

Romney accused of tax shelter role

Stephen Moore, the head of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, called the claims “unsubstantiated allegations about an issue that most people don’t really care about.” However, Moore’s own editorial pages said Romney should release his taxes. In response Moore tells Erin, “We think he should probably clear his name of this, but that’s his personal prerogative.”

Did Romney enable company's abusive tax shelter?

Mitt Romney's refusal to release tax returns in the critical years of his income accumulation has done little to dispel the legitimate concern that arises from hints buried in his scant disclosure to date: Did he augment his wealth through highly aggressive tax stratagems of questionable validity?

One relevant line of inquiry, largely ignored so far, is to examine what exists in the public record regarding his attitude toward tax compliance and tax avoidance. While this examination is hampered because his dealings through his private equity company, Bain Capital, are kept shrouded, there are other indicators.

A key troubling public manifestation of Romney's apparent insensitivity to tax obligations is his role in Marriott International's abusive tax shelter activity.


Filed under: 2012 Election • News • OutFront Deconstruct
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