Rebutting Tax Criticism, Romney Gives A Number

Mitt Romney told reporters Thursday that he has never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate over the past decade. Until now, the presumptive Republican nominee had sidestepped questions about his personal income taxes. Romney has come under withering criticism over the tax issue from President Obama's campaign and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Mitt Romney waded into the debate over his tax returns today. At a news conference in South Carolina, he insisted that over the last decade he has never paid less than 13 percent on his federal taxes. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Romney released two years' worth of tax documents and said no more. Then the rumors started that he paid little or no taxes. Chief propagator? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid citing an anonymous source.

SENATOR HARRY REID: He's basically paid no taxes in the prior 12 years.

SHAPIRO: In an interview last month, ABC asked Romney whether he has ever paid less than 10 percent. His answer?

MITT ROMNEY: I haven't calculated that. I'm happy to go back and look, but my view is I have paid all the taxes required by law. I don't pay more.

SHAPIRO: This week, Anne Romney told NBC: There's nothing we're hiding.

ANNE ROMNEY: The more we release, the more we get attacked. The more we get questioned, the more we get pushed. And so we have done what's legally required, and there's going to be no more tax releases given.

SHAPIRO: The pressure increased after the campaign said Romney asked prospective running mates to hand over several years of tax returns. This afternoon, Romney took questions from the press in South Carolina where he called the obsession with his taxes small-minded.

ROMNEY: I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent.

SHAPIRO: The tax returns he released in January showed that he paid 13.9 percent last year. That's lower than most Americans pay, since Romney's income generally comes from capital gains on investments. President Obama, for example, paid a rate of 20.5 percent. Romney said his number goes well over 20 percent if you factor in charitable giving. At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney responded to Romney's press conference today.

JAY CARNEY: This president believes that the tradition for presidential candidates to put forward multiple years of their tax returns is a useful and valuable one, not always a comfortable one.

SHAPIRO: The Obama re-election campaign responded more sharply, telling Romney: Prove it. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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