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Presidential debate 101: Does Romney’s tax math add up?

Here’s a closer look at the tax reform proposals that Mitt Romney discussed during Tuesday night's debate. Do President Obama and others have a point in challenging the math?

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President Barack Obama (l.) listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16.

Rick Wilking/Reuters

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When Republican candidate Mitt Romney floated some fresh details about his tax reform plan during Tuesday night’s debate, moderator Candy Crowley pressed a question that's on many voters' minds: What if Mr. Romney's numbers don't add up?

"Well of course they add up," was his quick reply.

He didn't elaborate much beyond that. So let's just say that the debate over Romney's tax math – with President Obama not the only one calling his rival's plan "sketchy" – hasn't been settled.

Here’s a closer look at the changing terrain of the tax reform tussle.

Romney affirmed Tuesday night some of the same points he made in Debate No. 1: that his plan doesn't involve tax cuts for the rich, that middle-class families will get some tax relief, and that his plan for a 20 percent reduction in income tax rates could be paid for by limiting tax breaks.

But he appeared to give new detail on how a cap for deductions might work.

"In terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be ... say everybody gets – I'll pick a number – $25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use," Romney said in response to a voter question in the town-hall style debate. He specified, "Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit, and so forth, you can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions."

In answering the tax question, Romney also noted, "The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that'll stay the same."

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