White House fires back over US current affairs show revealing details of Trump's 2005 tax return

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Associated Press

The White House said President Donald Trump made more than $150million (NZ$216m) in income in 2005 and paid $38 million (NZ$54m) in income taxes that year.

A rare glimpse at the US President's tax returns, leaked to an award winning journalist, has dominated the headlines in the US.
Source: 1 NEWS

The acknowledgement came as MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said she had obtained part of Trump's 2005 tax forms, and discussed the document on her night-time current affairs show today.

The records were obtained by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who said he received the documented unsolicited, in the mail.

The documents have become highly sought-after because Trump refused to release his returns during the campaign, breaking a decades-long tradition.

He claimed he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service and said his attorneys had advised against it — though experts and IRS officials said such audits don't bar taxpayers from releasing their returns.

The White House pushed back pre-emptively today, saying that publishing those returns would be illegal.

"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," the White House said in a statement.

The unauthorized release or publishing of federal tax returns is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 (NZ$7,220) and up to five years in jail.

But Maddow argued that MSNBC was exercising its First Amendment right to publish information in the public interest.

Based on the documents obtained by Johnston, Trump paid $36.5 million (NZ$52.6m) in taxes on $153 (NZ$220m) million in income, for an effective tax rate of around 24 percent.

That percentage is higher than the roughly 10 percent the average American pays each year — but below the 27.4 percent that taxpayers earning 1 million dollars a year average, according to data from the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Trump's tax returns spotlight the role of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was established nearly five decades ago to prevent the wealthy from using deductions and clever accounting to largely avoid paying taxes.

Trump, according to his campaign website, has said he wanted to eliminate the tax, which is expected to bring in more than $350 billion (NZ$504 billion) in revenues from 2016 to 2025.

Trump long insisted the American public wasn't interested in his returns and said little could be learned from them.

But Trump's full returns would contain key details about things like his charitable giving and how much he made each year.

The issue was a major point of attack from his rival Hillary Clinton, who suggested Trump had something to hide.

The White House has not said whether or not the president plans to release his returns while he's in office.

More than one million people have signed a White House petition urging the president to release them.

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