During her primetime show on Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow shared details from one year of Donald Trump’s tax returns.
The document, a copy of Trump’s 1040 form from 2005 that Maddow said was obtained and shared with the network by David Cay Johnston of DCReport.org, shows that the president paid $38 million in taxes on income of more than $150 million.
But as the Daily Beast reported—they too got a copy of the same tax documents—$31 million of those taxes were paid through the federal “alternative minimum tax,” which Trump has sought to repeal. The Trumps paid just $5.3 million in regular federal income tax in 2005, a rate of less than five percent. In 2005, the highest tax rate for a married couple filing jointly was 35 percent, meaning the Trumps should have been on the hook for more than $50 million in taxes.
An October report from the New York Times revealed that Trump declared losses of more than $900 million in 1995, allowing him to exploit a loophole through which he could avoid significant tax burdens for as long as 18 years.
Trump’s tax returns have remained a closely guarded secret since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015. Despite repeated promises to disclose his personal taxes—as every other presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has done—Trump has refused, citing ongoing audits by the IRS. An audit does not preclude someone from disclosing their own returns, and the campaign wouldn’t even provide evidence of an audit in the first place.
The White House released a pre-emptive statement confirming the authenticity of the return and Trump’s own skirting of the tax code to his financial benefit and attacking the Rachel Maddow Show.
“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 for over a decade ago,” the statement reads. “Before being elected President, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required. 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 dollars, as well as paying 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.”
As in previous instances when news outlets have obtained sensitive information pertaining to the President that isn’t publicly available, the White House insinuated—falsely—that the publication of Trump’s tax returns was illegal.