Donald Trump's decision to take a US$916 million loss on his 1995 income tax return showed his business acumen and "genius" at figuring out how to minimise his tax bill, the Republican presidential candidate's advisers say.
"This is a perfectly legal application of the tax code. And he would have been fool not to take advantage of it," said Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who is one of Trump's advisers.
Speaking on Sunday on the ABC program This Week, Giuliani said that as a business owner, Trump had a "fiduciary duty" to the investors in his real estate company to maximise profits.
Giuliani compared Trump's ability to come back from the nearly US$1 billion loss to turnarounds made by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Winston Churchill, the former British Prime Minister who led the UK through World War II.
"It shows what a genius he is. It shows he was able to preserve his enterprise, and then he was able to build it," Giuliani said on CNN's State of the Union.
The New York Times reported on Saturday it had obtained Trump's 1995 tax records and it quoted experts as saying the US$916 million loss he reported for that year might have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
Susanne Craig, one of the Times reporters on the story about Trump's tax records, said the tax documents arrived in a manila envelope in her mailbox at the Times with a return address of the Trump Organization.
She said a lawyer for Trump had threatened the newspaper with legal action if it decided to publish the documents.
The tax benefits outlined in the documents stemmed from financial deals Trump made that went bad in the early 1990s.
The Trump campaign, in a statement on Saturday, said the tax document was obtained illegally and accused the New York Times of operating as an extension of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Trump's rival in the November 8 election.
"I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them. #failing@nytimes," Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor and head of Trump's presidential transition team, said Trump's records showed the US tax code was an "absolute mess" and Trump was the best person to fix it.
But Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the tax write-off "shows the colossal scale of his business failures" and the wealthy real estate developer operated under different rules than ordinary taxpayers.
Clinton has repeatedly called on Trump to release his tax returns, as is standard procedure for modern presidential candidates.
Trump has declined to release his tax records, saying he will not do so until an audit of his returns by the Internal Revenue Service is complete.
The IRS has said an audit does not bar an individual from sharing their own tax information.