Former Pennsylvania Sen. and GOP presidential front-runner Rick Santorum has released four years of his personal tax returns that show a steep increase in income compared to his 12 years in Congress. Yet compared to his fellow GOP challenger Mitt Romney, his reported income is much lower.
Considered wealthy by most standards, Santorum only earned 4 percent of what fellow GOP challenger Mitt Romney reported in 2010. Both Santorum and Romney filed jointly with their spouses.
When Santorum left Congress in early 2007 following his defeat in November of 2006, he earned approximately $165,200 annually as a U.S. Senator. But after leaving Congress, Santorum was able to more than quadruple his income the following year.
He earned $659,000 in 2007, $952,000 in 2008, $1.1 million in 2009 before dropping slightly to $923,000 in 2010.
Santorum's four years of tax returns are by far the most of any major presidential contender. Both Romney and Gingrich only released two years of returns with one of Romney's years being his estimated 2011 earnings.
Yet there are other, more significant differences in Santorum and Romney's tax returns that the former senator likes to point out.
"I don't have wealth," Santorum told Politico's Juana Summers while campaigning in North Dakota on Wednesday. "Most of the assets that I ended up building was paying down a mortgage on my house that went down in value."
"So that's where most of my money went. But as far as the tax rates were concerned, [Romney] had dividend income, he had capital gains income and was taxed at 15 percent. I had income, which was taxed at a higher rate."
Santorum's reference speaks to the difference between how capital gains are taxed versus "earned" income.
For example, almost all of Romney's $21 million 2010 income was from dividends, or earnings off of previously taxed income. The top capital gains rate is 15 percent. Santorum only reported $527 dollars in ordinary dividends in the same 2010 reporting period.
By contrast, practically all of Santorum's $923,000 income in 2010 was taxed at the higher earned income rate of close to 29 percent.
Another significant difference was in charitable giving. Whereas the Romneys gave in excess of 10 percent in charitable gifts, the Santorum's only gave $16,289 to charity in 2010, or 1.7 percent of their income.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich released his taxes last month and reported approximately $3.1 million in income for 2010. Texas Congressman Ron Paul has not released his taxes and indicated in a prior debate that he had no intention of doing so.