WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday that he will release his 2010 tax returns and 2011 estimates on Tuesday, acknowledging it was a mistake for his campaign not to have done so earlier.
Stung by a loss to Newt Gingrich in Saturday's South Carolina primary, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist said it was "not a good week for me" and he cited all the time he had spent talking about his tax returns as his rivals pressed him to make them public.
After months of resistance, Romney had said last week that he would release tax information for 2011, but not until April, close to the tax filing deadline. That also was seen as a time, before the South Carolina race rattled his front-runner status, when the GOP nomination might have been decided.
"I think we just made a mistake in holding off as long as we did. It just was a distraction. We want to get back to the real issues of the campaign: leadership, character, a vision for America, how to get jobs again in America and how to rein in the excessive scale of the federal government," Romney told "Fox News Sunday."
Romney disclosed on Tuesday that, despite his wealth of hundreds of millions of dollars, he has been paying in the neighborhood of 15 percent, far below the top maximum income tax rate of 35 percent, because his income "comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past."
"Given all the attention that's been focused on tax returns, given the distraction that I think they became in these last couple of weeks," Romney said in the broadcast interview that he would release his 2010 returns and estimates for his 2011 returns at the same time "so there's not a second release down the road."
"We'll be putting our returns on the Internet, people can look through them," Romney said. "It will provide, I think, plenty of information for people to understand that the sources of my income are exactly as described in the financial disclosure statements we put out a couple of months ago.
During 2010 and the first nine months of 2011, the Romney family had at least $9.6 million in income, according to a financial disclosure form submitted in August.
Further focusing attention on his wealth was Romney's offhand remark to reporters that his income from paid speeches amounted to "not very much" money. In the August disclosure statement, he reported being paid $373,327.62 for such appearances for the 12 months ending last February. That sum alone would him in the top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers.
In addition, Romney owns investments worth between $7 million and $32 million in offshore-based holdings, which are often used legitimately by private equity firms to attract foreign investors. Such offshore accounts also can enable wealthy investors to defer paying U.S. taxes on some assets, according to tax experts.
An Associated Press examination of Romney's financial records identified at least six funds set up in the Cayman Islands, a small Caribbean island chain that has long been used as a base for international investments because of low tax rates and financial secrecy. Romney has acknowledged that some of his investments are based in the Caymans, but he has not identified all of the specific accounts and the amounts based there. There is no indication Romney uses the accounts to dodge any U.S. tax obligations.
"Cayman Islands account so-to-speak is apparently an investment that was made in an entity that invests in the United States, the taxes paid on that are full U.S. taxes," Romney said.
The Caymans have often been associated with individuals and corporations seeking to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It is legal for U.S. residents to own investment accounts that are set up there, if they file the proper forms with the Internal Revenue Service and pay the appropriate taxes.
"I know people will try and find something," Romney said, adding, "We pay full, fair taxes, and you'll see it's a pretty substantial amount."