Donald Trump paid only $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and then in 2017, one of a number of revelations that The New York Times reported on Sunday as they obtained more than two decades of tax information.
Those losses are the source of a battle with the IRS, which is questioning a $72.9 million tax refund, according to the Times.
Potentially more devastating to Trump’s reputation as a billionaire and business wizard was a revelation that Trump businesses were losing tens of millions, according to information reported to the IRS, while $300 million in loans will come due in the next four years.
The Times said that more reports would be coming. The publication had previously examined the tax dealings of the Trump family in 2018 and, in the weeks before the 2016 election, obtained some more limited personal tax information.
The Times report posted just before Trump appeared at a press conference at the White House. Asked about the story, he called it “fake news” and attacked the Times reporters.
Trump has refused to release his tax returns, despite a long tradition of presidential candidates and incumbents to do so. He has claimed that it is because he has been under audit, even though the IRS has no requirement over people publicly releasing their returns as they face such scrutiny. On Sunday, Trump told reporters that “actually I paid tax, and actually you will see that as soon as my tax returns…It’s under audit, and they have been under audit for a long time.” He said that he paid a lot in state income taxes, but he did not go into specifics.
As the Times noted in an analysis of Trump’s tax returns, he has been far more successful playing a business success on The Apprentice than he was in real life. According to the Times, the show, licensing and endorsement deals brought in $427.4 million.
The Times story landed two days before the first presidential debate, and may give Trump’s rival Joe Biden new fodder to attack the president on an issue that has been one of his strong points: the economy. Biden has recently tried to cast himself as having much more in common with working class voters, having grown up in Scranton, PA, than Trump does.
The Times also reported on Trump’s use of write-offs to lower his tax liability. Those included the cost of aircraft and residences, along with $70,000 for hairstyling for TV.
Another revelation: Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, received payments of $742,622 for a consulting business, but that figure matched a deduction for consultant fees that The Trump Organization took around the same time, according to the report.
The Times said that the information that it obtained was “provided by sources with legal access to it.” It said that it was able to verify it by comparing it to public information and past records it obtained.
Also revealed was a discrepancy between the losses reported to the IRS and the sums he reported on his public disclosure. According to the Times, in 2018 Trump said that he made at least $434.9 million. The tax records, though, showed $47.4 million in losses.
In an editor’s note, the Times’ Dean Baquet wrote that a team of reporters “has pored over this information to assemble the most comprehensive picture of the president’s finances and business dealings to date, and we will continue our reporting and publish additional articles about our findings in the week ahead. We are not making the records themselves public because we do not want to jeopardize our sources, who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public.”
He also defended publishing personal tax information, noting that the Supreme Court “has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment allows the press to publish newsworthy information that was legally obtained by reporters even when those in power fight to keep it hidden.”
The president’s niece, Mary Trump, who helped the Times obtain the family’s financial information for a previous story, wrote on Twitter, “The extraordinary and brilliant Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner strike again. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.”
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