ST. LOUIS — Under pressure by President Obama's re-election campaign to release them, Mitt Romney's campaign announced Friday that the former Massachusetts governor had filed for an extension in his 2011 taxes.
A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign said that while the presumptive Republican nominee had asked for more time to prepare his taxes this year, he would release them before November's election.
"Earlier this year, Gov. Romney released his 2010 tax return and an estimate of his 2011 income and taxes. This is an extension for filing his 2011 actual return, similar to what he has done in prior years," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "Sometime in the next six months, and prior to the election, Gov. Romney will file and release the 2011 return when there is sufficient information to provide an accurate return."
The move was sure to prolong a national debate set in motion by the White House over the issue of tax fairness. The president's campaign arm has also demanded more transparency by Romney on the matter of taxes, demanding not only this year's returns, but also Romney's returns from the last decade.
Romney will now have until mid-October — just weeks before the general election — to file his returns with the IRS.
A former co-founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital, Romney is estimated to be worth as much as $250 million dollars, according to personal disclosure documents.
His immense wealth had been made an issue in the primary campaign, when rival candidate Newt Gingrich demanded that Romney release his tax returns. After resisting the pressure, in January, the Romney campaign released his 2010 tax returns and an estimate for 2011.
Those records showed that Romney paid an effective tax rate of about 14 percent, a tax rate stemming from the fact that the bulk of Romney's income comes from capital gains and investments. Romney's extension estimates a tax liability of over $3.2 million last year, and reflects a total payment of over $3.4 million last year.
Still, the debate did a degree of political damage, and came only after revelations that Romney's financial advisers maintained accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, both of which are sometimes regarded as tax shelters. (Romney's campaign has consistently said the ex-governor has paid all relevant taxes.)
The statement from the Romney campaign comes on the same day President Obama and Vice President Biden released their 2011 returns. The release of those forms were amid a weeklong push by the president's campaign and the White House — timed to coincide with tax season — to highlight the "Buffett Rule," a proposal by Obama that millionaires should be required to pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent.
In a Friday morning memo titled "What is Mitt Romney Hiding from the American People," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called on Romney to release his 2011 Tax returns -- and those for previous years -- in keeping with tradition for the nominees of each major party, including Romney's father George, who in 1968 released 12 years of returns during his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination.
"On the eve of April 17th, Governor Romney has yet to provide tax returns from the period in which he made hundreds of millions as a corporate buyout specialist, or as governor of Massachusetts, the experience he says qualifies him to be president," Messina said in his statement.
Romney's inability to talk about his wealth comfortably — those close to Romney say privately he just doesn't think of himself as a "rich guy" — has often been regarded on as a stumbling block for his campaign, and a weakness for democrats to exploit by painting the former private-equity CEO as "out of touch."