Romney releases his 2011 tax return and 20-year average tax rate

Mitt Romney revealed his 2011 tax returns Friday, along with topline information, including his effective tax rate, from the last 20 years.

In a post to his campaign website, Romney turned over his entire 2011 tax return along with a notarized letter from his tax preparer that gives a “summary of tax rates from the Romneys’ tax returns” since 1990.

That note affirms that the Romneys have paid state and federal income taxes in each of the past 20 years, with his lowest annual effective federal tax rate never dipping below 13.66 percent. The document does not, however, reveal Romney’s actual rate or income for each of the years.

Nevertheless, the document is intended to refute statements from some Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who have suggested Romney may have exploited tax loopholes to avoid paying income taxes.

A memo from the campaign also revealed that the Romneys averaged an effective federal tax rate of 20.2 percent over the past 20 years and gave an average of 13.45 percent to charity.

The campaign will apparently not reveal the detailed returns from the past 20 years, which could leave some lingering questions about Romney’s finances. The Obama campaign has repeatedly hit Romney for offshore assets revealed in his initial financial disclosure; the new 20-year summary does not include similar details.

In fact, the Obama campaign circulated a memo Friday demanding answers to whether Romney paid foreign income taxes, owned a shell corporation in Bermuda, and continued to receive income from Bain Capital.

“How can we believe that Gov. Romney paid the rates asserted in the summary when he refuses to release the returns themselves?” Obama spokesman Danny Kanner said in the email. “If the data used to compile the summary is derived from all of Gov. Romney’s tax returns from 1990-2009, why provide average calculations instead of simply providing the voters with the tax returns themselves?”

Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said later in the day that the release “confirms what we already knew — that people like Mitt Romney pay a lower tax rate than many middle-class families because of a set of complex loopholes and tax shelters only available to those at the top.”

The Romney campaign issued a statement from former IRS commissioner Fred Goldberg offering a proactive rebuttal to new questions.

“These returns reflect the complexity of our tax laws and the types of investment activity that I would anticipate for persons in their circumstances,” Goldberg said. “There is no indication or suggestion of any tax-motivated or aggressive tax planning activities. In my judgment, they have fully satisfied their responsibilities as taxpayers.”

Sen. John McCain issued a statement heralding Romney for “giving voters an incredibly detailed look at his finances.”

“Now that the most recent tax return has been released, it’s time to get back to discussing the issues that voters care about,” McCain said. “While President Obama and Democrats will try to distract voters, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are focused on fixing the economy, getting Americans back to work and ensuring a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

In a swipe at the Obama campaign, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul tweeted that more than 105 individuals from Chicago were on the Romney website viewing the records as they were released.

Romney did release his full 2011 tax return. That document revealed that Romney paid $1.94 million in taxes on $13.7 million of mostly investment income, at an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent.

The Romneys also donated more than $4 million to charity in 2011 but only claimed deductions on $2.25 million of that amount.

“The Romneys’ generous charitable donations in 2011 would have significantly reduced their tax obligation for the year,” said Romney trustee Brad Malt in a statement. “The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the Governor’s statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.”

At a press conference in the summer, Romney said that he “did go back and look at my taxes, and over the last 10 years, I’ve never paid less than 13 percent.”

The candidate apparently took less of a break than he was entitled to in 2011 so as to conform with that statement, costing him an approximately $1.75 million deduction. Had Romney taken the full deduction, he would have paid some quarter of a million less in taxes.

Romney told ABC News in July that voters expected candidates to pay “only what the tax code requires.”

And during a primary debate in January, Romney said he paid “all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more.”

“I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes,” he continues.

The document dump also provided a look at running mate Paul Ryan’s tax returns for 2011. Last year, Ryan and his wife Janna brought in $323,416 in income from Ryan’s congressional salary and rental income. The Ryans paid $64,764 in federal income tax for an effective rate of 20 percent; they paid an additional $21,904 in state and local taxes. The report also revealed the Wisconsin lawmaker gave just under $13,000 to charity in 2011.

The Romney campaign also provided physician letters for both Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, the public’s first look into the medical backgrounds of the Republican ticket. Both candidates were said to be in excellent health.

— Jonathan Easley contributed to this report. This post was updated and corrected at 4:42 p.m.

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