WASHINGTON – Pressuring Mitt Romney on taxes, President Barack Obama's campaign re-released more than a decade of tax records Friday, a political maneuver designed to pressure the Republican presidential candidate to divulge tax records beyond two years and to stop "hiding" details of his huge personal wealth.
Obama's own tax return for last year showed that he and his wife paid $162,074 in federal taxes on $789,674 in adjusted gross income, an effective tax rate of 20.5 percent. Their income plunged from $1.7 million in 2010, with declining sales of the president's books. In 2009, the Obamas reported income of $5.5 million, fueled by the best-selling books.
Romney's campaign has projected he will pay more than $6.2 million in taxes on $45 million in income in 2010 and 2011 but has not released tax information prior to the past two years. Romney is expected to pay 15.4 percent in federal taxes for 2011 on income mostly derived from investments, based on his tax estimate for the year.
Romney on Friday asked for an extension for the actual filing of his 2011 return, as he has in the past, and his campaign said he would file and release that return before the November election.
Obama's campaign re-released tax documents dating back to 2000 with the aim of forcing Romney to release a similar trove. A Romney spokeswoman shot back that Obama was saddled with a terrible record on job creation and was trying to distract Americans "with a series of sideshows."
Obama's 20.5 percent tax rate for 2011 was a bit lower than the average for a family in their income range, but higher than the rate paid by most Americans. The Obamas helped lower their tax bill by making $172,130 in charitable donations, which were the majority of their itemized deductions.
Families making between $500,000 and $1 million will pay an average of 24.3 percent of their income in federal taxes for 2011, according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. By comparison, families making between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay an average of 12 percent, while families making between $75,000 and $100,000 will pay an average of 15.5 percent.
By contrast, the top rate for taxpayers with high incomes derived from wages, not investments, is 35 percent.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said Romney's "defiance of decades of precedent set by presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, including his own father, begs the question – what does he have to hide?"
Former Michigan Gov. George Romney released 12 years of tax documents when he sought the 1968 GOP presidential nomination.
Mitt Romney had not pledged to do the same. As for this year, his spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the former Massachusetts governor would "release his full 2011 return when it is filed."
Obama and Romney are both at a different income level than most Americans. The median household income in 2010 was $49,445, according to the Census Bureau.
Republicans noted that Obama's annual earnings of less than $1 million would help him avoid being affected by the so-called "Buffett rule." The proposal pushed by Obama and Senate Democrats says people earning at least $1 million annually should pay at least 30 percent of their incomes in taxes and faces long odds when it is considered in the Senate next week.
The president's 2011 federal income tax return shows that about half of the first family's income is the president's salary and the rest comes from his books.
Obama's tax return showed charitable donations of more than $172,000. Obama is donating after-tax proceeds from his children's book to the Fisher House Foundation. The charity helps veterans and military families receiving medical treatment.
Obama's income soared after he won a Senate seat in Illinois and generated interest in his first book, "Dreams of My Father."
The Obamas earned combined incomes of about $200,000 to $275,000 through 2004, when Obama ran for Senate. The Obamas earned $1.65 million in 2005 and nearly $1 million in 2006. In 2007, the family's income topped $4 million following the October 2006 release of Obama's second book, "The Audacity of Hope." In 2008, the Obamas earned $2.65 million.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, filed tax returns similar to last year's. The Bidens paid $87,900 in federal taxes on adjusted gross income of $379,035. Their income was $143 below their 2010 return, but their tax bill was $1,274 higher. In both cases, the effective tax rate was just over 23 percent.
On the latest return, the Bidens listed $5,540 in donations to charity. Most of the couple's income came from the vice president's salary of $225,521 and Mrs. Biden's wages of just over $82,000 for teaching at Northern Virginia Community College.