15/03/2017 12:28 PM AEDT | Updated 15/03/2017 5:43 PM AEDT

Rachel Maddow Releases Part Of Trump's 2005 Tax Returns

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow discussed parts of a copy of President Donald Trump's federal income tax returns from 2005 on her show late on Tuesday.

She teased the news an hour before she went live on air, where she was to be joined by Trump biographer and investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who obtained the returns.

"This document has been made available," Maddow said. "That may be the most important part of this story."

The returns showed that Trump "earned more than $150 million in the year 2005—and paid just a small percentage of that in regular federal income taxes," according to the Daily Beast:

Daily Beast contributor David Cay Johnston has obtained what appear to be the first two pages of Trump's 2005 federal income tax return, and published an analysis of those pages on his website, The Daily Beast could not independently verify these documents.

The documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax—a rate of less than 4%. However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the so-called "alternative minimum tax," or AMT. Trump has previously called for the elimination of this tax.

In a response to Maddow's announcement before her show, the White House released a statement saying that in 2005 Trump had paid $38 million in tax on an income of $150 million, and adding that Trump had a responsibility to "pay no more tax than legally required".

The president's tax history has been under scrutiny since the real estate mogul launched his campaign from the lobby of his Fifth Avenue skyscraper in 2015. Democrats, some fellow Republicans and more than a million petitioners demanded to see the documents, which presidents from the previous four decades had released during their campaigns.

Trump eluded them all, and just two days after his inauguration, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president was "not going to release his tax returns" because "people didn't care."

Such an abrupt refusal followed months of Trump dancing around the issue, saying he couldn't share his tax returns because they were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service (although the IRS said there was nothing prohibiting their release) and later pledging to do so if his rival, Hillary Clinton, released emails related to her private email account.

In October 2016, the New York Times reported that it had obtained three pages from then-candidate Trump's 1995 personal tax return. That partial return showed that Trump took a $916 million loss that year, a move that experts who reviewed the filing for the Times said may have allowed him to avoid paying personal income taxes for almost two decades.

Trump admitted that he had taken the massive deduction in a debate with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton a week after the Times report. "The write-off is a wonderful thing," Trump said, but not before insisting, "I pay taxes".

After that debate, Trump's son Eric said his dad "pays a tremendous amount of tax." However, he went on to cite instances of the Trump Organization paying taxes as a business, not personal income taxes.

At the first presidential debate, Clinton accused Trump of not releasing his tax returns because they would show how little taxes he paid. "That makes me smart," Trump replied.

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.