Washington: President Barack Obama's campaign on Friday offered Republican challenger Mitt Romney a deal: If he releases five years of tax returns, Obama's team won't criticise him for not releasing any more.
The answer came quickly: No.
The multimillionaire Romney has been under pressure to show how much he pays in taxes as economic issues and the growing gap in the US between the rich and poor dominate a tight race toward the November election.
Releasing several years of tax returns has become a standard in recent Presidential elections, but Romney has said his critics would distort the tax information and use it against him.
Campaign manager Jim Messina made the offer to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades in a letter today. Messina said he is taking the step because Romney "apparently fears the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide."
The Romney campaign rejected the offer.
"It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Gov. Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters," said Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades.
Led by Obama, the Democrats are also going after Romney for seeking to protect tax cuts for the wealthy, with hopes of luring pivotal support from middle-class voters.
Romney released his 2010 taxes and plans to release his 2011 returns. Messina said he wants Romney to provide three more years of returns.
Obama's campaign has questioned whether there are years when Romney paid no taxes. Romney yesterday said he has paid at least 13 per cent of his income in federal taxes every year for the past decade.
On average, middle-income families, those making from USD 50,000 to USD 75,000 a year, pay 12.8 per cent of their income in federal taxes, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.
In 2010 and 2011, Romney made about USD 21 million a year.
Romney is able to keep his tax rate low because most of his income is from investments, which are generally taxed at a lower rate than wages. That type of legal tax figuring is something Obama has proposed changing.
Romney's stance is markedly different from that of his father, George Romney, who released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968.
First Published: Saturday, August 18, 2012, 09:46