Trump’s Taxes: “Trumped Up, Trickle Down” Economics or Genius?

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Donald J. Trump previously confessed that he tries to “pay as little as possible” when it comes to taxes. Therefore, it came as no surprise when a partial report of the Republican presidential nominee’s 1995 tax records confirmed his financial outlook.

The New York Times published Trump’s 1995 income tax returns on Saturday, which explain how the former reality TV show host and real-estate mogul could have avoided taxes for nearly two decades. That year Trump declared a $916 million loss, a loss that could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years.

Trump was recently criticized by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the first presidential debate for not being forthcoming about his tax returns. Clinton suspected that the businessman didn’t pay his federal income taxes–a claim Trump said made him “smart.”

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani agreed with Trump’s statement and called him a genius after the tax records were released.

“The reality is, this is part of our tax code. The man’s a genius. He knows how to operate the tax code to the benefit of the people he’s serving,” Giuliani told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

Legal, yes. Genius, not so much.

The Washington Post’s Allan Sloan, a seven-time winner of the Loeb Award (business journalism’s highest honor), didn’t offer the same sentiments as Giuliani. Sloan’s op-ed said:

Sure, the $900 million-plus of losses reported by the New York Times–losses that could be used to offset income for a total of 18 years–are totally shocking. Legal, yes. But shocking.

But there’s something I consider even more shocking–although it involves a much smaller number.

By my read of the Trump tax return published by the New York Times, he would have been tax-free because of a $15,818,562 loss reported on Line 11 of the return under “Rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporations, trusts, etc.” It looks to me that this loss reflects the outrageous, special tax break that real estate developers that people like Trump can get, but that the rest of us can’t.

In the current election cycle Trump has refused to release his returns, unlike every other presidential candidate in modern history. As the candidates begin to bridge the gap between voters, it is imperative they remain honest and forthcoming–a common complaint for both of their campaigns.

Trump declined to comment on the documents. Instead, he tweeted a personal attack at the Times.

The Trump campaign released a statement that neither challenged nor confirmed the $916 million loss.

“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement said. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes, along with very substantial charitable contributions.”

Bryan White
Bryan is an editorial intern at Law Street Media from Stratford, NJ. He is a sophomore at American University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism. When he is not reading up on the news, you can find him curled up with an iced chai and a good book. Contact Bryan at BWhite@LawStreetMedia.com.



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