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Romney under fire over income.

MITT ROMNEY has ripped into Republican rival Newt Gingrich attacking what he said was the former speaker of the House of Representatives' disgraced exit and subsequent work as a Washington influence peddler. But attention focused on Mr Romney's finances - including a now-closed Swiss bank account - after his campaign released tax returns yesterday.

The leaders for the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in November appeared to have exchanged roles in the 18th debate, with the fiery Mr Gingrich on the defensive a week before the Florida primary election on January 31. The state's diversity, large population and large media markets are a bigger challenge than the three states that have voted in the nominating process so far.

Surveys show Mr Gingrich leading Mr Romney after his decisive win in South Carolina over the weekend, making Florida pivotal if Mr Romney is to reassert his former role as the inevitable Republican nominee.

Mr Gingrich told Fox News that Mr Romney is a "desperate guy" throwing wild punches.

Mr Romney, whose wealth is estimated to be as much as $250m (pounds 160m), put out income tax returns for 2010 overnight that show he is among the top 1% of US taxpayers. His income puts him in the top 0.006% of Americans.

Mr Romney's 2010 returns and estimates for last year also showed he paid 14% and 15.4% tax on the vast fortune he accumulated as a venture capitalist.

That rate is far lower than standard rates for high-income earners whose income is derived from their wages rather than investment earnings.

He is seen by many as a member of America's superwealthy investor class that uses the US tax laws to pay a lesser rate than working people.

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* Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, and Newt Gingrich in a debate in Tampa, Florida
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jan 25, 2012
Words:305
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