Paul Ryan Paid a Higher Tax Rate Than Mitt Romney Because He’s Less Rich

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Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Mitt Romney's selection of Paul "Abs of Steel" Ryan as his running mate didn't distract the media from the subject of his tax returns for long. By the middle of last week, reporters had returned to the issue, with bonus questions about how much money Ryan shells out to the government each year. Last night, the Romney-Ryan campaign released two years' worth of the vice-presidential candidate's tax returns, and here's what we learned: In 2010 Ryan paid an effective federal tax rate of 15.9 percent on $215,417 in income, while in 2011 he paid 20 percent on $323,416 in income.

That doesn't exactly make Paul Ryan your average working-class Wisconsinite. In fact, a large chunk of that $323,416 figure for 2011 — which lands the Ryans in the top 3 percent of U.S. households — was income related to a multimillion dollar estate left to Ryan's wife, Janna. And, at 59 pages, his return is quite a bit longer and more sophisticated than most. But it's still nothing next to Romney's nearly $21 million in investment income for 2010, or the 203-page tax return he filed for that year — a whopping 55 pages of which were solely devoted to his complicated web of attack ad-ready Swiss and Grand Cayman bank accounts. Ryan also paid a higher effective tax rate than Romney, who paid just 13.9 percent in 2010 and a projected 15.4 percent in 2011.

Granted, both men pay more than the average American taxpayer, who probably pays an effective federal tax rate closer to 11 percent. However, they would have each paid much more were it not for the relatively low 15 percent rate on capital gains and investment income — a rate the Paul Ryan budget plan would reset to zero. If implemented retroactively, it would've lowered Romney's 2010 tax rate to just 0.82 percent.