Romney tax returns indicate that he underpaid Mormon church tithe

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney underpaid the Mormon church’s recommended 10 percent tithe, or at least the 10 percent pre-tax rate he has claimed to pay, tax records released Monday evening indicate.

Romney has forcefully spoken about his lifelong commitment to both the Mormon church and its tithing rules. He served as a missionary in France during the 1960s and as a Mormon bishop in the 1980s.

As Romney recently told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, “I made a commitment to my church a long, long time ago that I would give 10 percent of my income to the church, and I’ve followed through on that commitment.”

“So, if I had given less than 10 percent, then I think people would have to look at me and say, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with you fella — don’t you follow through on your promises?'” Romney said.

In a December interview with Parade Magazine, Romney mentioned his tithing, saying, “I’ve given away 10 percent of what I’ve earned, pre-tax.”

Romney earned $21.6 million in 2010 and $20.9 million in 2011, the two years for which tax records were provided.

In 2010 Romney donated 7 percent of his pre-tax income, or $1.525 million, to the church, and in 2011 he donated 12.4 percent, or $2.6 million. For the two years combined, he donated 9.7 percent of his pre-tax income to the church.

Unlike most religious organizations, which strongly encourage tithing, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires members to give 10 percent to be “in good standing.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Mitt Romney)

Good standing is required to enter Mormon temples or serve in a leadership position, a church leader explained to The Daily Caller. Verification of the tithing requirement is informal, and relies on an honor system.

Romney’s charitable trust, the Tyler Charitable Foundation, has also given money to the Mormon church. In 2010, the foundation gave $145,000. A figure for 2011 is not yet available.

A member of the Romney campaign tasked with answering inquiries about the tax returns initially insisted that the Tyler Foundation’s donations to the church made up for the 2010 deficit and satisfied the tithing requirement.

“Your math is off,” the campaign staffer told TheDC.

If the foundation’s giving was included as part of Romney’s tithing, however, income earned by the foundation — according to 2010 tax returns, a net investment income of around $1.7 million that year — would negate a positive impact on Romney’s tithing rate that year.

When pressed, the campaign staffer then asserted that Romney’s tax preparers initially underestimated his 2010 income, resulting in a lower contribution to the church, which he made up for with a higher giving rate in 2011. But even with his extra 2011 contribution, Romney still tithed less than 10 percent of his income over the two-year period.

“Mitt and Ann Romney have contributed significant sums to their church and countless other worthy causes,” the Romney campaign said in a statement provided to TheDC. “The Governor tithes on all his income,” added Romney spokesperson Andrew Saul.

According to a campaign staffer, the Romneys “have contributed significant sums to their church and have more than met their obligations.”

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