On her March 14 show on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow released two pages from President Donald Trump's 1040 form from 2005. While the White House tried to dismiss it, the documents did show one interesting thing: the president paid a large amount in the "alternative minimum tax" that year -- the same tax he's now trying to abolish.
According to Maddow, she obtained the document from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who said he received the unsolicited document from an unknown source, reports the Daily Mail.
The two pages that Maddow disclosed showed that Trump made $253 million that year but wrote off $103 million as losses, which lowered his federal income tax percentage to less than 3.5 percent.
Maddow's big scoop was publicized in advance, giving the White House time to preempt it with several responses. “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,” it said in a statement reported by The New York Times. “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 described the business losses as a "large-scale depreciation for construction," adding that Trump 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."
Regarding the alleged illegality, Maddow insisted that the First Amendment protected her right to report on the document.
But the most widely noted aspect of the document is the "alternative minimum tax" of $31 million that he paid. This is a tax that Trump has specifically said that he wants to abolish, notes The Times. The purpose of this tax is to prevent wealthy Americans from paying no income tax at all.
“Trump’s return shows that he’s pushing tax changes that benefit multimillionaire heirs like him, not the middle class,” said Lily Batchelder, a tax law professor at New York University and former majority chief tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee. “His proposal to repeal the A.M.T. would have slashed his own tax burden by $31 million, and his income tax rate would be lower than the average rate paid by families earning $75,000 to $100,000.”
Edward Kleinbard, a professor of tax law at the University of Southern California, said, “It’s disturbing that he is pushing to eliminate the only tax that really bit him in that year.”
Johnson added: "If we didn't have the alternative minimum tax he would have paid tax at a lower tax rate than the poorest people in this country."
Trump was the only presidential candidate during the 2016 election who did not disclose his tax returns, claiming that an ongoing audit prevented doing so.
Following Maddow's airing of the leaked document, the Democratic National Committee said the White House’s response contradicts its claim that it cannot release information about the president's taxes. Zac Petkanas, senior adviser to the DNC, said in a statement: “If they can release some of the information, they can release all of the information. 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."