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New York Times Trumpets Mitt Romney's Tax Rate in Friday Lead Slot

Friday's New York Times lead story on Romney's tax returns by Michael Shear was actually pretty fair (ignoring the excitable placement). "Romney Says He Paid At Least 13% In Income Taxes – Looked At Last 10 Years – Candidate Calls Interest in Personal Returns 'Small-Minded.'"

Shear made the point, unusual among a press enthusiastic for raising taxes on the rich, that "In saying that he paid a tax rate of at least 13 percent, Mr. Romney and his wife would still have had a higher income tax rate than most households. More than 46 percent of households did not pay any federal income tax in 2011 because their income was low enough that deductions and credits reduced their bill to zero."

From Friday's lead story:

Mitt Romney said Thursday that he paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes each year during the past decade, again confronting a vexing issue that Democrats have used to portray him as out of touch with middle-class values.

Calling the interest in his personal tax returns “small-minded” in light of the nation’s problems, Mr. Romney said that he had nonetheless examined the last 10 years of his personal tax returns after Democrats suggested that he might not have paid anything at all in some years.

“Every year, I’ve paid at least 13 percent,” he said, referring to his effective federal income tax rate, which is a higher effective rate than most people pay.

....

Democrats have hounded Mr. Romney for months about his tax returns. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, has asserted -- without providing any proof -- that Mr. Romney paid no taxes in some years, presumably by using offshore tax shelters and other legal accounting measures.

Mr. Romney had already denounced the remarks as false. But he has steadfastly refused to release more than his full return for the 2010 tax year and a short summary of taxes he paid in 2011. In an interview on NBC’s “Rock Center” that was broadcast Thursday night, Ann Romney stood by her husband’s refusal, saying that further releases would simply provide “ammunition” for Democrats.

....

In saying that he paid a tax rate of at least 13 percent, Mr. Romney and his wife would still have had a higher income tax rate than most households. More than 46 percent of households did not pay any federal income tax in 2011 because their income was low enough that deductions and credits reduced their bill to zero. Even a typical household making $100,000 a year would pay closer to a 10 percent average federal income tax rate than a 15 percent rate, Congressional Budget office data suggest.

For many middle-class households, however, other taxes -- like payroll taxes and state and local taxes -- typically cause their total annual tax rate to rise to 20 percent of their income and higher. For Mr. Romney, these other taxes most likely had only a small effect on his total tax rate, because much of his income came from investments, which is generally taxed at a lower rate than wage income.

In 2011, Mr. Obama and his wife reported an effective federal income tax rate of 20.5 percent. In 2010, their rate was just over 26 percent.