Donald Trump, who has refused to release his tax records, was under pressure on Sunday after a damning report by a major US daily suggested the billionaire Republican nominee could have avoided paying taxes for nearly two decades, a development that may hurt his presidential bid.
The revelations, that he declared a USD 916 million (around Rs 609 crore) loss on his 1995 income tax return that might have allowed him to dodge paying income tax for up to 18 months, threatened to put the 70-year-old tycoon's tax records at the centre of the presidential campaign nearly a month ahead of the November 8 election.
Presidential candidates aiming for the White House have traditionally made their tax records public in the interest of transparency. But Trump has vehemently refused to disclose his tax records, saying his taxes are under federal audit.
There is no legal reason why a person under audit cannot make their tax records public while they are running for the office. Many voters too have demanded that Trump make his tax records public.
In an investigative report, The New York Times said Trump declared a USD 916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns.
"The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan," the report said.
The Trump campaign, responding to the news report, said his income tax returns was obtained illegally by the Times and attacked the daily as "an extension of the Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests."
"What is happening now with the FBI and DOJ (Department of Justice) on Hillary Clinton's emails and illegal server, including her many lies and her lies to Congress are worse than what took place in the administration of Richard Nixon - and far more illegal," it said.
"Mr Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for president and he is the only one that knows how to fix it," the campaign added.
The campaign, however, did not address the tax issues raised by the report.
Calling it a "bombshell report," the Clinton campaign said the article "reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump's past business failures and just how long he may have avoided paying any federal income taxes whatsoever."
Trump is also under pressure after the first presidential debate with Clinton in which major media houses declared him struggling against the Democrat nominee.
The Times claimed that tax experts hired by it to analyse Trump's 1995 records said tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed him to use his USD 916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.
"Although Mr Trump's taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a USD 916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than USD 50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years," the report said.
Last Monday, at the first of the three scheduled presidential debates, when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton raised the issue of his tax records, Trump retorted by saying "I will release my tax returns, against my lawyer's wishes, when she releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted."
The Trump campaign has also said that the Republican nominee has shown "incredible skills" in building his business and those were "the skills we need to rebuild this country."
"Hillary Clinton is a corrupt public official who violated federal law, Donald Trump is an extraordinarily successful private businessman who followed the law and created tens of thousands of jobs for Americans," it claimed.