Under reforms made by George W. Bush, dividends, capital gains and other
returns on investments Mr Romney made as head of Bain Capital, a corporate
buy-out firm he ran in the 1980s, are subject to a marginal rate of 15 per
cent, compared to 35 per cent for regular income above $379,150 (£246,217).
The loophole was highlighted by a complaint from Warren Buffett, the
billionaire investor, that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary. A
so-called “Buffett Rule”, closing it, was proposed last year by
President Barack Obama but is opposed by Republicans,
including Mr Romney. “Now we see why,” a Democratic
party spokesman said in a statement. “He is benefiting”.
By contrast, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle paid an effective
federal income tax rate of 26 per cent, according to their most recent
Mr Romney – who is also assumed to pay 10 per cent of his income in tithes to
the Mormon church – made the admission the morning after he was repeatedly
put on the back foot in a televised debate.
Warning voters that “we cannot fire our nominee” in the event of
unhelpful disclosures, Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, told Mr Romney: “Release
your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money”.
Mr Romney also came under attack from Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker,
and Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, for his corporate
record, for negative advertisements broadcast by his supporters and even for
his stance on whether former prisoners should be allowed to vote.
In his weakest performance of the 16 debates so far, Mr Romney showed rare
signs of unsteadiness. At one stage he was pressured into virtually
promising to release his tax returns, before stopping short.
Mr Romney said he would “probably” release his return in April, in
line with past presidential candidates. He is expected by then to have
secured the Republican nomination.
Mr Gingrich added to the pressure over Mr Romney’s tax returns.
“Either there is nothing there, so why doesn’t he release it, or there is
something there, so what is he hiding?” he asked.
“If somebody has a fatal weakness, you’d better find out about it before
they get the nomination,” Mr Gingrich said after a rally packed with
enthusiastic supporters, after a half-empty Romney rally four miles away.
The White House increased the pressure on Mr Romney to release his income tax
“It’s not for us to call on someone to release his tax records, but it is an
established tradition for presidential candidates to release their tax
record,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
With four days to go before the South Carolina primary, Mr Gingrich – who
trails Mr Romney in polls here by an average of seven per cent – claimed
only he could realistically stop “moderate Mitt”.
“Any vote for Perry or Santorum is in effect a vote for Romney to be the
nominee,” he said, adding that he would “be delighted” if
either rival dropped out, allowing him to collect their supporters.
Asked whether he would “bloody Obama’s nose” if he won the
nomination, Mr Gingrich said: “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want
to knock him out”.
Mr Perry meanwhile came under fire after comparing Turkey’s government to “Islamic
terrorists”, calling for them to be kicked out of Nato.