Romney still under fire over taxes
Seeking to put an end to questions about his personal finances, Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today he did not pay less than a 13 per cent tax rate at any point over the last 10 years.
Democrats have criticised Mr Romney for not releasing more than two years of tax information and openly asked whether the millionaire former private equity executive has something to hide about his wealth.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid accused Mr Romney earlier this month of not paying taxes for 10 years, a claim the Republican denies.
"I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the last ten years, I never paid less than 13 per cent," Mr Romney told journalists in Greer, South Carolina. "I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that," he added.
Mr Romney also said that when charitable donations were taken into account, his tax rate has been above 20 per cent.
Debate over Mr Romney's taxes and the Medicare health programme for the elderly has taken the focus of the campaign away from Mr Romney's top issue: jobs.
"I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces - 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty - the fascination with taxes I've paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face," he said.
The Romney campaign returned to the tax issue near the end of a week in which it has been largely focused on promoting his choice of running mate, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report said today that Medicare - one of the policy issues most associated with budget hawk Ryan - is a top election concern among voters.
Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is one of the richest men ever to run for US president. He has an estimated net worth of up to $250 million.
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and its Democratic allies have featured Romney's wealth and refusal to divulge more tax returns in negative ads to paint the Republican as out of touch.
In January, Mr Romney released financial information showing he had paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 per cent in 2010, mostly from capital gains on investments. The top tax rate for wages is 35 per cent, while capital gains are taxed at a lower rate.
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Reid, brushed off Mr Romney's statement that he never paid less than 13 per cent.
"We'll believe it when we see it," he said. "Until Mitt Romney releases his tax returns, Americans will continue to wonder what he's hiding," Mr Jentleson said.