Indiana governor Mike Pence said Donald Trump managed his taxes "brilliantly" in response to a question about why the Republican did not pay federal income taxes for almost two decades.
Speaking in Farmvillle, Virginia, Mr Pence said the question of taxes was the "difference" between Hillary Clinton, Virginia senator Tim Kaine and Mr Trump, as Mr Trump was a businessman and not a politician.
"He went through a hard time," said Mr Pence explained.
"He did it brilliantly," he added, referring to his tax management.
Mr Trump was exposed to have made a loss of just over $916 million in 1995 and did not pay federal income tax for the next 18 years, by way of carrying losses forward to evade tax, which is a legal loophole.
Mr Pence’s comments come the same week that Mr Trump’s allies, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, called him a "genius" for managing his taxes as he had an "obligation to maximise his profits".
During the vice presidential debate, Mr Kaine interrupted to ask Mr Pence why Mr Trump had not released his tax returns.
"We are answering a question about the business thing," retorted Mr Pence.
"He’s going to release his tax returns when the audit is over," he added.
Mr Pence had to provide his tax returns to prove he was qualified to be Mr Trump’s vice president, while Mr Trump has so far refused to release his tax returns.
Mr Trump said he was not going to release them while they were under audit, despite assertions from the likes of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who said he had released his own returns while they were under audit.Reuse content