Mitt Romney will release 2011 tax return by Oct. 15, campaign says

Mitt Romney will release his complete 2011 tax return by Oct. 15 and possibly sooner, but that will be the Republican presidential challenger’s final disclosure, his campaign said Sunday.

Romney received a filing extension from the Internal Revenue Service, and Oct. 15—22 days before Election Day—is the extended deadline.

“We have said as soon as they’re ready we’re going to release them,” Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “And I believe they’ll be ready before that.”

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“They’re being finalized. There’s a lot of forms that have to come in from other entities that the governor doesn’t have control over,” Gillespie added.

In January, Romney made public his 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011, which projected his tax liability at $3.2 million last year.

Presidential candidates are not required to release tax returns, and the Romney campaign often notes that the former Massachusetts governor has already exceeded his legal obligation. Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee four years ago, also released two years of tax returns.

But most major-party nominees in recent decades have released more than two years of returns, and President Obama’s reelection campaign has been pressuring Romney for months follow the example of his father, George Romney, who made public 12 years of returns when he sought the GOP nomination in 1968.

The Obama campaign has also questioned why Mitt Romney would share 23 years of tax returns with McCain in 2008, when he was being considered as a possible running mate, but withhold the same volume of financial documents from the public. Obama released seven years of tax returns in 2008 and has made his return public each year he has been in the White House.

On Friday, Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, sought to strike a deal in a letter to Matt Rhoades, his counterpart at the Romney campaign.

“Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide,” Messina wrote. “So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: If the governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more—neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign.”

The Romney campaign rejected Messina’s offer.

“Thanks for the note,” Rhoades responded in an e-mail. “It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney’s tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending. If Governor Romney’s tax returns are the core message of your campaign, there will be ample time for President Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days.”

Romney said last week that he reviewed his tax returns from the last 10 years and never paid an effective tax rate of less than 13 percent—despite a charge by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that Romney paid no taxes for a decade.

Romney’s tax returns have been a campaign issue because the 2010 return revealed some of his vast wealth is held overseas and also showed he paid a lower rate than many middle-class Americans.

The Obama campaign has criticized Romney for his offshore holdings and low tax rate, saying they demonstrate a disconnect between Romney and average voters.

Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom insisted Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “taxes are not an issue. It is not what the American people are talking about.”

But a CNN/ORC poll published earlier this month showed 61 percent of registered voters believe Romney should release more than two years of tax returns.