Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at Wofford College in...

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. (Jan. 18, 2012) Credit: AP

Browbeaten into revealing something about his finances, Mitt Romney said Tuesday he paid federal income taxes at a rate close to 15 percent.

That's a lower rate than many middle-income Americans pay, and a political problem for the wealthy former private-equity executive, running for president at a time when income distribution and tax rates are hot issues.

Romney said his income is overwhelmingly from investments. That means it was likely taxed at the 15 percent capital-gains rate, which is far less than the top rate of 35 percent paid on ordinary income from wage earners.

It doesn't matter that he's rich or how he made his fortune, estimated at $270 million. But, as this page advocated in a recent series of editorials, Romney and the other presidential hopefuls should embrace federal income tax reform that would tax capital gains as ordinary income, eliminate or limit most deductions, reduce tax rates, eliminate the corporate tax and calibrate the changes to raise revenue to help slash deficits.

With sweeping tax reform a pressing issue, Romney should release, now, his tax returns for multiple years, and his 2011 return as soon as it's filed. His father, George Romney, set the standard when he ran for the 1968 Republican nomination. He released 12 years of returns, noting that a single return could be manipulated to make a candidate look good.

Voters deserve a look at the younger Romney's returns before choosing the 2012 Republican nominee.

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