Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney defended paying an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent on Sunday, following the release of his 2011 tax returns and ensuing backlash from critics who pounced on his relatively low tax rate.
In the process, he argued that it would be fair for him to pay a lower effective rate than someone on the low end of the income ladder as his earnings derived primarily from capital gains. Low rates on those earnings, he said, help spur investment.
CBS' Scott Pelley pressed Romney on the issue during an interview that aired Sunday night on "60 Minutes."
"Now you made, on your investments, personally, about $20 million last year," Pelley said. "And you paid 14 percent in federal taxes. That's the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes $50,000 and paid a higher rate than you did?"
"It is a low rate," Romney said. "And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35 percent."
When pressed on whether or not he believes that rate is fair, Romney said he thought it was the "right way to encourage economic growth -- to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work."
A Romney adviser said in an phone call Sunday night with The Huffington Post that Romney's tax plan has always called for keeping tax rates on capital gains lower while eliminating them for families with less than $200,000 in income from capital gains. In other words: the governor wasn't making policy news.
Romney released his 2011 returns Friday after months of pressure to disclose more financial information. HuffPost's Zach Carter reported:
Mitt Romney paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent in 2011, according to a tax return filed on Friday, a relatively low tax rate resulting from exotic deductions, the special tax treatment for his Bain Capital retirement package and the low tax rate on capital gains. Romney also opted not to deduct millions in charitable contributions from his tax bill in order to maintain a pledge from August that he has paid at least 13 percent in federal income taxes for each of the past 10 years.
Romney's income was $13,696,951 in 2011, and he paid $1,935,708 in taxes. Romney's income for the year was more than 263 times larger than the U.S. median household income of $51,914.
As ABC News reported, Romney's decision to not deduct the full amount of his charitable contributions contradicted a statement he made earlier this year, when he said he would not pay more taxes than are "legally due."
"Frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president," Romney said in July. "I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires."