15 Mar 2017

Details of Trump's 2005 tax return released

3:31 pm on 15 March 2017

US President Donald Trump paid $US38 million in tax on more than $US150m income in 2005, a leaked tax return has revealed.

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US President Donald Trump has broken with precedent by declining to release his tax returns (file). Photo: AFP

Mr Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns, saying his taxes were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said she received two pages of Mr Trump's 2005 return from American journalist David Cay Johnston, who said on her show he received them in the mail.

The White House quickly put out a statement to pre-empt the release, saying Mr Trump paid $US38m in taxes on income of $US150m.

The White House did not release any documents supporting its numbers. It said Mr Trump, as head of the Trump Organization, had a responsibility "to pay no more tax than legally required".

The leaked pages, which MSNBC posted on its website, showed Mr Trump paid an effective tax rate of 25 percent.

The two pages were a fraction of the complete return and did not include details of Mr Trump's income.

The documents showed Mr Trump and his wife Melania paid $US5.3m in regular federal income tax, a rate of less than 4 percent.

But they also showed the Trumps paid an additional $US31m in the "alternative minimum tax", a supplemental income tax imposed by the federal government. One of Mr Trump's campaign promises was to get rid of this tax.

Mr Trump wrote off $US100m in losses to reduce his federal taxes, according to the documents.

The White House said Mr Trump took into account "large scale depreciation for construction".

On her show, Maddow said Mr Trump's continued refusal to release his returns had finally seen them leaked to the media, and that was an issue for all Americans.

In its statement, the White House said publication of the tax details was illegal, but Maddow said the US Constitution protected her right to release the information belonging to the president.

Presidents and major candidates for the White House have routinely released their income tax returns. Experts say an IRS audit does not bar someone from releasing the documents.

At times Mr Trump paid no federal income taxes, according to news reports. That included at least two years in the late 1970s, the Washington Post reported last year, citing a 1981 New Jersey gambling commission report.

The New York Times reported in October that Mr Trump declared a substantial loss in 1995 that could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years afterward, based on records obtained by the newspaper.

During a September presidential debate, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton criticised Mr Trump for paying no federal income taxes.

"That makes me smart," he responded.

Mr Trump has feuded with the media since his inauguration, often accusing it of promoting "fake news" intended to undermine his presidency.

"The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the president will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans," the White House said in its statement.

- RNZ / Reuters

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