Amid a controversy fueled by his opponents over whether he plans to release his income tax returns, Mitt Romney acknowledged Tuesday that he's been paying a tax rate of close to 15% in recent years.
"What's the effective rate I've been paying? It's probably closer to the 15% rate than anything," Romney told reporters during a press conference after a lightly attended Tuesday morning rally here. Over the last 10 years, he said, "my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income or rather than earned annual income."
The former Massachusetts governor, who spent 25 years in the private sector as a consultant and at a private equity firm that he co-founded, noted that he "got a little bit of income" from his book, but "gave it all away." He also said he had earned fees for the speeches he has delivered "from time to time, but not very much."
The top income tax rate for most Americans is 35% -- although Romney said Monday night he'd like to see it reduced to 25%. But income from investments is taxed at a capital gains rate of 15%.
According to the Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington tax-reform advocacy group, the average American earning $60,000 a year with no deductions is taxed at about a 30% rate.
Some of Romney's GOP rivals, along with President Obama's backers, have attempted to use Romney's wealth as a cudgel against him--arguing that he is out of touch with the concerns of struggling Americans. As the other GOP contenders try to halt Romney's progression toward the Republican nomination, several have criticized Romney's tactics when he headed the private equity firm Bain Capital. In recent days, they have ramped up pressure on Romney, whose wealth is estimated to be as much as $250 million, to release his tax returns.
During Monday night's debate in Myrtle Beach, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said it was important for Romney to release his tax returns "so the people of this country can see how you made your money" and decide "if we've got a flawed candidate or not." Romney replied that he would "probably" release his tax returns in April.
"In prior races for president the tradition has been that the nominee releases his tax returns in tax season, in April," Romney told reporters in Florence on Tuesday morning. "And I know that if I'm the nominee, people will want to see the most recent year, and see what happened in the most recent year and what things are up to date."
"So rather than sort of have multiple releases of tax returns, why, we'll wait until the tax returns for the most recent year are completed, then release them."