For an hour and a half on Tuesday night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow whipped America's left into a froth, dangling on Twitter the prospect that she would reveal Donald Trump's tax returns on live TV that evening. What Maddow had were the first two pages – the 1040 – of Trump's 2005 tax return. The documents were leaked to Pulitzer Prize-winning financial reporter David Cay Johnston of the site DCReport.org.
To recap: President Trump refused throughout the campaign to release his tax returns, and in doing so became the first major-party nominee – and now the first president – since Nixon not to do so. During the campaign, The New York Times obtained a portion of Trump's 1995 return. It showed a loss of almost a billion dollars – big enough that he could, in theory, have avoided paying taxes for some two decades.
Here's what the partial 2005 return showed.
Trump was still benefitting from his massive business failure in '96.
In 2005, the tax returns show, Trump was still benefitting from the massive, $916 million loss he claimed in 1995. Documents obtained by The Times suggested it would technically have been possible for the president to convert that loss into a $50 million tax credit every year for 18 years afterward, but the new 1040 confirms that in 2005 he was, in fact, still taking advantage of that loophole – a loophole Congress closed in 1996, the year after he claimed it.
He paid a ridiculously low tax rate.
Trump and his wife Melania (the pair were married in 2005, the year the leaked return was filed) paid $5.3 million in taxes in 2005 – a tax rate of less than four percent, significantly lower than the roughly 20 percent the average household pays.
He paid the alternative minimum tax, which he ran against.
In addition to the $5.3 million Trump paid in 2005, he paid considerably more – $31 million – under the Alternative Minimum Tax, a section of the tax code he vowed to eliminate on the campaign trail.
The White House was shook.
The White House was agitated enough that it released a statement before Maddow's show even aired. "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," the press office said in a statement. "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."
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the average American income tax rate.