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Romney releases 2011 tax returns

Republican candidate also discloses 20-year financial snapshot

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign has been plagued by questions about his personal wealth.

BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign has been plagued by questions about his personal wealth.

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney released a trove of information on Friday afternoon about his financial holdings, capping a politically difficult week by returning the campaign to a topic that has dogged his presidential candidacy since last year.

In addition to releasing his completed 2011 tax returns, Romney also provided a one-page snapshot of 20 years of returns, an attempt to offer a deeper view of his wealth and to illustrate to voters that he has been paying income taxes for more than two decades.

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Romney’s updated returns show he paid $1.9 million in taxes on $13.7 million in income, most of which came from investments taxed at a lower rate than wages. It means his effective tax rate for 2011 was 14.1 percent, slightly higher than it was in 2010.

Romney’s tax forms, and his reluctance to release them, have been a major theme of his campaign. As one of the wealthiest people to run for president, he has been hounded – first by his Republican primary opponents and later by Democrats — to release more about his personal finances. He has slowly complied, with the latest returns coming on a Friday afternoon, a prime time for politicians to release potentially controversial information because fewer voters are paying attention to the news.

Opponents criticized the release as inadequate; supporters said they hope this spells the end of the fervor over his finances.

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“Now that the most recent tax return has been released, it’s time to get back to discussing the issues that voters care about,” said Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican. When Romney was being considered as McCain’s running mate in 2008, he released 23 years of returns to the campaign.

Romney did make one adjustment in his taxes to meet a campaign statement he made in August under pressure from Democrats: that he had paid at least 13 percent in federal income taxes in each of the past 10 years.

Even though he made charitable contributions of $4 million in 2011 — nearly 30 percent of his income — he claimed deductions covering only $2.25 million. That decision increased the tax rate from 10.5 percent to 14.1 percent.

Most of the donations go to a charitable foundation that he and his wife, Ann, started. The foundation helps the Mormon church, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, among other groups.

Romney, however, could take full advantage of those contributions in future years, either by amending his 2011 returns or by reporting them on subsequent returns.

The decision to pay more taxes than required directly contradicts comments Romney has made, most recently when he told ABC News in July, “I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president.”

Michele Davis, a campaign spokeswoman, said Romney “has been clear that no American need pay more than he or she owes under the law. At the same time, he was in the unique position of having made a commitment to the public that his tax rate would be above 13 percent.”

The couple also reported $3.5 million in income ‘‘from sources outside the United States,’’ citing ‘‘various countries,’’ the Associated Press reported. The AP said the forms included filings on holdings in Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and the Cayman Islands.

In response to the release, the Obama campaign accused Romney of profiting from overseas investments and ‘‘loopholes and tax shelters only available to those at the top.’’

The brief summary of his tax returns covers from 1990 to 2009. Compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, it contains several statements signed by the firm’s general counsel. The firm said it prepared Romney’s taxes over that period.

The summary says that in each of those years, Romney owed both state and federal income taxes. Over that period, the summary says, the average annual effective federal tax rate was 20.2 percent. The lowest annual effective federal tax rate was 13.7 percent.

Romney is still not releasing the actual tax forms from that period, however, meaning he will have released a total of two years worth of returns — far less than Democrats and some Republican colleagues have called for and far short of the 12 years Romney’s father, George,released when he ran for president in 1968.

Because the summary merely includes averages over a 20- year period, they do not shed any new light on the income Romney earned from Bain Capital, the center of the dispute over his finances.

Several tax analysts said his decision to include a 20-year period skewed the results, because they include a time period when the dividends and capital gains rates were almost double the 15 percent they are now. Those rates were cut by President Bush in 2001 and 2003.

“They are really skewing the rate by including those early years,” said Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel for federal tax policy at Citizens for Tax Justice, a labor-backed group pushing for tax code changes. “I don’t think it tells us anything.”

Paul Beecy, a tax partner at Grant Thornton in Boston, agreed.

“You present a broader picture during a time when tax rates were higher than they are now,” he said.

Davis, the Romney spokeswoman, countered, “Twenty years is a significant and appropriate time period.”

The snapshot of what Romney paid over the last 20 years appears to be a direct rebuttal of comments made by Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who has said several times that he was told by an unnamed Bain investor that Romney did not pay any federal taxes over a 10-year period.

Reid released a statement Friday that criticized Romney for not releasing additional returns.

“When will the American people see the returns he filed before he was running for president?” he said, without addressing the fact that Romney does now appear to have paid taxes each year. “Governor Romney is showing us what he does when the public is looking. The true test of his character would be to show what he did when everyone was not looking at his taxes.”

Romney also released a two-page letter Friday from his personal physician, following a frequent practice of presidential candidates releasing detailed information about their physical health.

Romney’s physician since 1989, Randall D. Gaz at Massachusetts General Hospital, gave Romney glowing reviews following a physical on Aug. 9, when Romney had a resting heart rate of 40, extremely low for a 65-year-old male.

“There are no physical impairments that should interfere with his rigorous and demanding political career as the next President of the United States,” Gaz said.

Romney’s tax returns came after a rough week, which was dominated by the release of a video secretly recorded at a May fund-raiser that showed Romney disparaging 47 percent of Americans who he said considered themselves “victims,” who paid no taxes, were dependent on government, and therefore would never vote for him.

In tax returns Romney released in January, he paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 on more than $21.7 million in income.

At that time, he released an estimate on what he would pay in 2011, putting that estimate at 15.4 percent on $20.9 million. He filed for an extension in April, and only released the final tax returns on Friday.

Beth Healy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com
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