ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. Fourteen-point-one percent - that's the income tax rate that Mitt Romney paid last year. Today, the Republican candidate released the final version of his 2011 tax return. He also released a summary of tax payments over the last two decades. It says he and his wife never paid less than 13.6 percent in income taxes.
Today's releases are not unexpected. Romney had promised to provide the numbers as soon as they were available. He still refuses to release any additional tax returns. NPR's Scott Horsley is here in the studio to put it all in context for us. Hi, there, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.
CORNISH: And to start, Mitt Romney has faced months of calls to release these tax returns, so will what he put out today actually do anything to put all that to rest?
HORSLEY: Probably not. We're still really left with just two years worth of full returns and the Romneys are asking people to sort of take his word for it about what his family paid in the last two decades. He complained during a news conference in South Carolina last month that there's been far too much focus on his personal taxes.
MITT ROMNEY: I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that.
HORSLEY: As you say, actually, the most recent year's tax rate was 14.1 percent, but Romney's tax rate would have been less than 13 percent last year had he taken the full deduction for his contributions to charity. The Romneys gave more than $4 million to charity last year. They only claimed two and a quarter million of that, so Romney effectively overpaid taxes in 2011 in order to prevent having to backtrack on the claim that he'd never paid under 13 percent.
CORNISH: Right. Now that he's put to rest the charge that he's paid no income tax, how does this effective rate stack up to the average American?
HORSLEY: Well, most of his income is from investments and our tax code rewards that. Income from investments taxed at a lower rate than ordinary labor, so he saves there. The average American pays about nine and a half percent in income taxes. If you add in payroll and other taxes, that climbs to about 18 and a half percent.
For people in Romney's income range, the average income tax rate would be nearly 22 percent. And just for comparison, President Obama paid about 19 percent last year on income of just under a million dollars.
CORNISH: Now, the income Mitt Romney reported for 2011 on this final version of his taxes is less than on the preliminary version he released in the spring. What gives?
HORSLEY: Yeah. He thought we was going to earn about $21 million in 2011. The final figure is under 14 million, so his investment income was considerably off in 2011. The Romney campaign notes that his income can vary considerably from one year to the next, depending on which of his investments are sold, and of course, that is something that the family's money managers have some control over.
CORNISH: NPR's Scott Horsley, talking with us about the release of Mitt Romney's full 2011 tax return. Scott, thank you.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Audie.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.