US presidential candidate Donald Trump has spent the last 48 hours trying to contain damaging revelations about his tax affairs, which according to a report in Sunday’s New York Times, suggest he may have been able to avoid paying any income tax at all for as many as 18 years.
The NYT report said the newspaper had been given the first pages of Mr Trump’s 1995 state income tax filings in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The documents had been “mailed last month” to a journalist for the publication, who had written a number of stories about Trump’s finances.
The documents showed Trump had “declared a US$916m loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show”, the Times report said.
“The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr Trump…derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel (pictured) in Manhattan.
“Tax experts hired by The Times to analyse Mr Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr Trump to use his $916m loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year-period.”
While it wasn’t news that Trump lost money during the 1990s, the magnitude of his losses, and the possibility that he was avoiding paying any income tax at all, while continuing to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle compared with that of many voters who paid their taxes, is being seen as potentially damaging to his campaign, observers said in the wake of the NYT’s report.
Trump’s campaign responded that The Times, “like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests”, and pointed out that the candidate had paid “hundreds of millions” of dollars in other kinds of taxes over the years.
In a report on its website today, The Times noted that Trump “is now limping into the final five weeks of a race in which he has lost the momentum, some of his allies acknowledged”.
The Times report went on to quote Rudolph Giuliani, a former New York mayor and “close” Trump adviser, as referring to the candidate, on a Sunday programme on CNN, as “a genius”, and adding: “He knows how to operate the tax code for the people that he’s serving.”
It also quoted New Jersey governor Chris Christie, another Trump ally, as arguing that rather than demonstrating any kind of malfeasance, the tax records published by The Times showed Trump to be singularly qualified to overhaul the US federal tax code.
Political observers expected Trump would respond to the accusations by targeting perceived weaknesses in his rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, such as allegations about her and her husband’s wealth and his infidelity. According to a Trump campaign spokesman, Trump was expected to use a speech in Colorado later today “to call attention to how both Clintons became very wealthy after leaving the White House”, The New York Times said.
To read the original story on The New York Times‘s website, which has a paywall, click here.