WASHINGTON -- Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan released his 2010 and 2011 tax returns Friday, backing up his running mate in a fight with Democrats who want Mitt Romney to be more transparent about his personal finances.
Mr. Ryan and his wife, Janna, paid an effective tax rate of 20 percent last year.
They paid $64,764 in total federal tax on adjusted gross income of $323,416 in 2011, when they filed an amended return. Their effective 2010 rate was about 16 percent.
Mr. Romney has said that giving out two years of tax information was enough.
As it turns out, Mr. Romney has paid a lower tax rate than Mr. Ryan the last two years.
Mr. Romney said Thursday he has paid at least 13 percent of his income in federal taxes in each of the past 10 years. But he has refused to release more of his returns, calling the fascination with his taxes "small-minded."
He has released his 2010 returns and a preliminary 2011 return.
Mr. Romney paid about $3 million in federal income taxes in 2010 for an effective federal tax rate of 13.9 percent. For 2011, Mr. Romney's campaign estimates that he will pay about $3.2 million for an effective federal tax rate of 15.4 percent.
On average, middle-income families, those making from $50,000 to $75,000 a year, pay 12.8 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.
By comparison, Mr. Romney made about $21 million a year in 2010 and 2011.
Mr. Romney is able to keep his tax rate low because most of his income is from investments, which are generally taxed at a lower rate than wages.
Mr. Romney's tax returns have become a distraction for his campaign, with Democrats and even some Republicans urging the presidential candidate to release more than two years of his returns.
The Romney campaign on Friday rejected a new call from President Obama's campaign to release five years of tax returns, while trumpeting a surge in support for the Republican ticket since Mr. Ryan was added.
In a letter Friday to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades, Obama re-election campaign manager Jim Messina pledged that if Mr. Romney released five years of tax returns filed from 2007 to 2012, the Obama campaign would stop criticizing the candidate for not making public more of his returns.
Mr. Messina said the request "is surely not unreasonable," noting that the five-year period would span the years that Mr. Romney has been a presidential candidate and noting that other White House hopefuls, including Mr. Romney's father, have released more returns in the past.
The Romney campaign rejected the offer.
"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," Mr. Rhoades said.
Mr. Romney focused Friday on raising money for his campaign, and Mr. Ryan was holding two campaign rallies Friday in Virginia.
In the week since Mr. Romney announced Mr. Ryan as his running mate, the GOP presidential ticket has received a boost in the polls as well as in fund-raising, Mr. Rhoades said in a new campaign memo.
Democrats have contended that Mr. Ryan would prove to be more of a liability than an asset for the Republican presidential candidate.
They pointed to Mr. Ryan's budget blueprint and his plan to overhaul Medicare as just two examples of how they aim to put Republicans on the defensive.
Mr. Rhoades argued in his memo, however, that Mr. Romney's choice of Mr. Ryan has "reshaped the race in a positive way" and that the GOP is very much on offense.
A point underscoring the Romney camp's argument that it can now go on the offensive against Mr. Obama is its scheduling of Mr. Ryan to deliver an address this morning at a Florida retirement community, where his mother will be in the audience.
Apparently banking that the GOP ticket is vulnerable on Medicare, however, the Obama campaign in its new ad on the subject cited criticism of Mr. Ryan's Medicare overhaul plan by AARP, which represents retired people.
The ad noted that the AARP had told lawmakers this year that Mr. Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voucherlike system would impose higher costs on seniors, the Associated Press reported.
The ad is running in eight states, including Ohio.