WASHINGTON, March 16: The White House has acknowledged that Donald Trump paid $38 million in taxes in 2005, a rare peek into the president’s jealously guarded finances that was leaked to the US media.
Trump reported an income of $150 million 12 years ago, and paid an overall tax rate of around 25 percent, according to a leaked summary of part of his tax return.
The document also shows that he wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his tax burden. The White House described it as a “large-scale depreciation for construction.”
But the two-page partial return does not reveal the source of Trump’s income, the key question that has fuelled demands for him to disclose his tax history in line with standard practice for US presidents.
The full tax document, which would be dozens of page in length, could notably shed light on whether he has controversial business ties — including with Russia, as some Trump critics suspect.
The White House confirmed late Tuesday the details of Trump’s 2005 taxes just before David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, and MSNBC revealed the short filing.
On Wednesday, Trump attacked the reporter on Twitter, questioning his account of how he obtained the document.
“Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, ‘went to his mailbox’ and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!”
Appearing with left-leaning MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, Johnston said he did not know the source of the leaked return, which was placed in his mailbox.
But Johnston suggested a member of Trump’s entourage — possibly even, he speculated, the president himself — anonymously delivered the tax documents to him.
“Let me point out it’s entirely possible Donald sent this to me,” he said. “Donald has a long history of leaking material about himself when he thinks it’s in his interests.”
Trump has refused to release his full tax returns since he began his quest for the US presidency, shattering decades of tradition for candidates from both major political parties.
The two-page snapshot was broadly favorable to the White House and appeared to back up Trump’s claim that he paid his fair share of taxes, and no more.
“The documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax — a rate of less than four percent,” Johnston wrote in a post on the Daily Beast website.
“However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the so-called ‘alternative minimum tax,’ or AMT.”
The AMT was originally designed to prevent rich taxpayers from using excessive loopholes, and Trump has previously called for its elimination.
Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr was quick to claim victory over those who speculated his dad paid no taxes.
“I don’t know much, but if I recall correctly $38,000,000 is a lot more than $0… right???” he wrote on Twitter.
The president has claimed, without evidence, that he could not release his taxes because he is under an Internal Revenue Service audit, and that at any rate, US voters have no interest in seeing them.
A recent Langer Research poll, however, showed that almost three-quarters of Americans believe Trump should release his tax returns.
While campaigning for president Trump said that if elected he would release his taxes, but once in office he backpedaled.
In a statement, the Democratic National Committee slammed Trump’s “audit excuse” as a “sham.”
“The only reason not to release his returns is to hide what’s in them, such as financial connections with Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin,” said Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser to the DNC, offering no evidence.
On the attack
The White House bashed media outlets for publishing the return, even as it confirmed its authenticity and key figures.
“You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago,” an administration official said.
Trump paid “no more tax than legally required,” said the official, who refused to be identified.
“That being said, Mr Trump paid 38 million dollars even after taking into account large-scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million.”
The official said that Trump also paid “tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes, and this illegally published return proves just that.”
In October, before Trump was elected, The New York Times published three pages of Trump’s leaked 1995 tax returns. Those returns showed a $916 million deduction that, according to IRS rules, could have resulted in Trump legally paying no taxes for up to 18 years.AFP