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Romney Can't Win on Taxes in NYTimes: 'Responds to Pressure,' Overpayment Contradicts 'His Own Past Assertions'

Republican Mitt Romney overpaid his income taxes last year, a fact that would seemingly endear him to the liberal media. Yet the New York Times managed to use that fact against him, cynically terming it "a bit of reverse financial engineering," in the Saturday lead story from two of their more slanted reporters, Nicholas Confessore and David Kocieniewski, "Romney Reveals He Paid 14% Rate In '11 Tax Return – Responds to Pressure – Summarizes Prior Years – Level Could Have Been Cut Further."

Mitt Romney responded to months of political pressure on Friday by making public his most recent tax return and limited information from previous years, asserting that he had paid a double-digit federal income tax rate for more than two decades.

Mr. Romney’s return for 2011 showed that he paid an effective federal income tax rate of 14 percent last year, or a little more than $1.9 million on adjusted gross income of about $13.7 million.

A letter from his accountants said his tax rate from 1990 through 2009 had never fallen below 13.66 percent but did not disclose the amount of tax paid. Mr. Romney’s 2010 return, which he made public in January, showed that he paid a rate of 13.9 percent.

Mr. Romney’s tax return for last year showed just how sensitive a political matter his wealth and tax rate has become. In a bit of reverse financial engineering, he and his wife, Ann, gave up $1.75 million worth of charitable deductions, raising his tax payments significantly.

Had he claimed all the deductions to which he was entitled in 2011, his effective rate could have dipped to near 10 percent, contradicting his past assurances that he had never paid below 13 percent.

But forgoing the full deductions available to him put him at odds with his own past assertions that he had never paid more taxes than he owed and his statement that if he had done so, “I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president,” as he put it to ABC News in July.

The Times dutifully forwarded complaints from two of the more irresponsible Democrats, Stephanie Cutter and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, while nit-picking in a way the paper rarely if ever did to another well-off presidential nominee, Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

While the release of some figures for the previous two decades went beyond what Mr. Romney had signaled he would be willing to disclose, it remained impossible to get a complete picture of his tax liabilities from those years without his returns. Democrats quickly pounced on Mr. Romney’s decision to release only average figures for his 1990-2009 returns, leaving many details of his finances and tax planning unclear.

In a statement, Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for President Obama, said that Mr. Romney “continues to fail” the test of full disclosure by releasing only a summary of his earlier returns. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, who had accused Mr. Romney of having paid no taxes for a decade, did not repeat his claim on Friday -- but did not back down either.

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The Romney campaign took questions about the new documents only over e-mail, and a memo from his lawyer, R. Bradford Malt, left unanswered questions that have swirled about Mr. Romney’s overseas income, foreign tax credits and use of sophisticated corporate structures abroad to minimize his tax burdens at home.