Earlier this month, the New York Times published several pages from Donald Trump’s 1995 New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut state income tax returns. They revealed an astonishing $916 million loss, one that—assuming the Internal Revenue Service didn’t challenge it—would have allowed Trump to avoid paying personal income taxes for about 18 years.
Is that what happened? It sure sounded possible! And now we appear to know for sure that Trump used the loss to avoid paying personal federal income taxes, at least for some period of time. How? Because he just said so in the second presidential debate.
When Anderson Cooper asked Trump, “Did you use the loss to avoid paying personal federal income taxes?” Trump responded bluntly: “Of course I do,” he said, adding, “So do all of her donors. I know many of her donors. They take massive write-offs.”
That’s quite possible! But they aren’t running for office, and they weren’t on the debate stage. Trump is. And he blamed Hillary Clinton for the fact he doesn’t pay taxes. Because, you see, “A lot of my write-off was depreciation, and that, Hillary as a senator, allowed. The people that give her all this money want it.” (Clinton, of course, wasn’t a senator in 1995, the year Donald Trump reported the $916 million loss. If you needed reminding!)
Cooper quickly moved in, making sure Trump didn’t misspeak by asking a moment later, “Can you say how many years you have avoided paying personal federal income taxes?”
Trump responded: “No, but I pay tax and pay federal tax, too.”
But at no point did he say he paid federal personal income taxes. Because, as he himself allowed, for some period, he didn’t.
If you are in any doubt about this point, let’s rewind the tape to the last presidential debate. Remember when Hillary Clinton said, “He’s paid nothing in federal taxes,” Donald Trump couldn’t stop himself from pointing out, “That makes me smart,” adding a moment later, “It would be squandered too, believe me.”
Finally, Trump’s own campaign used similar language when responding to the New York Times story, saying in a statement, “”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.”
So there you have it.