Nightly News   |  January 24, 2012

Romney pays less than 14 percent in taxes

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his tax returns, revealing that nearly all of his income is from investments. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> good evening. while our focus in prime time will be the president's state of the union address before a joint session of congress , to be fair, the attention has not been on the president. not for months. it's been on the gop race and the republican candidates. and one of them, mitt romney , chose today to release his tax returns from the year 2010 . he did it to help stop the questions about his wealth, but in releasing his taxes, he reveals what most americans will regard as unimaginable wealth, and vast investments after a successful career in business, much of it spent buying and selling companies. the numbers in these returns will likely get talked about for the rest of the way in this campaign. it's against this backdrop that we begin tonight with nbc's andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: mitt romney wasn't talking about his taxes today, but the numbers tell the story. for 2010 , the romneys paid $3 million in taxes on an adjusted gross income of $21.6 million, an effective rate of 13.9%. that compares to the obamas who paid 26% of their income in taxes. and the gingriches who paid 31.6%. the big difference -- almost all of the romneys' income is from investments, not salary or other income. and the irs taxes investments at a much lower rate.

>> when you're at this wealth level, you get much more in the way of capital gains and qualified dividends and other preferential income.

>> reporter: for 2011 , the romneys estimate they'll pay an effective rate of 15.4% on an adjusted gross income of $29 million. over both years, the romneys gave $7 million to charity, including $4.1 million to the mormon church . they earned $12.9 million over two years in so-called carried interest, retirement payments of bain capital , taxed at the lower rate. that part of the tax law is hugely controversial. if those payments had been paid at the higher rate, the romneys would have owed $2.6 million more to the irs.

>> he paid what he's owed and that's the beginning and end of that story.

>> reporter: with growing income inequality and anger rising, romney dragged his heels for weeks about releasing his returns. even if elected president

>> it's a little bit premature to be talking about it at this stage.

>> is there some secret? people know you're wealthy.

>> i understand.

>> there's nothing to hide.

>> i agree. there's nothing to hide.

>> reporter: the romney campaign now says it's been completely transparent about its taxes, but that won't settle the issue for the obama campaign and tax codes that favor the rich. andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.