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Story highlights

"I unfairly get audited by the I.R.S. almost every single year. I have rich friends who never get audited. I wonder why," Trump tweeted

Trump has faced calls to release his tax returns in recent days

Washington CNN —  

Donald Trump on Saturday claimed he is “unfairly” audited by the Internal Revenue Service “almost every single year,” an apparent suggestion that the agency’s investigations are politically motivated.

“I unfairly get audited by the I.R.S. almost every single year. I have rich friends who never get audited. I wonder why,” Trump tweeted.

Trump has faced calls to release his tax returns since former GOP nominee Mitt Romney warned Wednesday that there could be a “bombshell” in the billionaire’s returns. At Thursday’s CNN Republican debate, Trump said he wouldn’t release his returns because he’s being audited, a claim he reiterated on Saturday.

“Tax experts throughout the media agree that no sane person would give their tax returns during an audit. After the audit, no problem,” Trump tweeted Saturday.

Following Thursday’s debate, Trump suggested that the IRS may be targeting him because he is “a strong Christian.”

RELATED: Trump says he can’t release tax returns because of audits

“I’m always audited by the IRS which I think is very unfair, maybe because of religion, maybe because of something else,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “Well, maybe because of the fact that I’m a strong Christian and I feel strongly about it and maybe there’s a bias.”

“You see what’s happened,” Trump added, an apparent reference to allegations claiming the IRS targeted conservative groups. “You have many religious groups that have been complaining about it. They’ve been complaining about it for a long time.”

A message left with the Trump campaign on Saturday seeking clarification on the billionaire’s remarks was not immediately returned. Earlier this week, the IRS told CNN that federal privacy rules prohibit the agency from discussing individual tax matters.

But most candidates release their returns voluntarily, and an audit by itself would not prevent Trump from releasing his tax returns. It is up to an individual whether to disclose his or her tax return – to the public, to a lender or to anyone else who wants to see it.

RELATED: Trump: Romney ‘one of the dumbest candidates’ in Republican politics

After Thursday’s debate, Trump suggested that releasing his returns now would compromise his negotiating position with the IRS.

“You’re in the midst of negotiating and talking to the IRS … Your lawyers would never allow you to do that,” Trump told CNN.

Trump has claimed that he’s worth more than $10 billion and that voters can find out more about his finances from his financial disclosure statements than they can from tax returns.

Audits of individual tax returns are rare. Overall, fewer than 1% are audited every year, although the rate is closer to 10% for tax filers with incomes over $10 million. The IRS says it expects to conduct 1.2 million individual audits this year, the lowest level in 11 years.