In what Hillary Clinton’s campaign immediately described as “a bombshell report,” the New York Times revealed Donald Trump declared a loss of $916 million in his 1995 income tax returns. That could have led him to avoid paying federal income taxes for 18 years, according to experts the paper hired to analyze three pages of Trump’s returns that were sent anonymously to a Times reporter.
“Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years,” notes the Times.
The paper reached that conclusion after analyzing “the first page of a New York State resident income tax return, the first page of a New Jersey nonresident tax return and the first page of a Connecticut nonresident tax return.” That means the paper didn’t analyze any pages from Trump’s federal tax return. And the tax experts the paper hired all agreed the documents don’t suggest any wrongdoing.
Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning and didn’t dispute a single fact of the Times story that was posted on the paper’s website on Saturday night. “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them,” he wrote.
Trump’s Twitter statements follow along the same lines of the pushback from his campaign, which also didn’t dispute the accuracy of any of the documents the Times cited, nor any of the conclusions that the paper reached. “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 campaign said in a statement. The campaign points out that throughout the years 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.”
The campaign’s main complaint was that the documents were published without Trump’s green light. “The only news here is that the more than 20-year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained, a further demonstration that the New York Times, like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests,” notes the statement. A Trump lawyer sent a letter to the paper vowing “prompt initiation of appropriate legal action,” arguing that publishing the records is illegal without the candidate’s authorization. But litigation seems unlikely to make the paper back down considering that last month Dean Baquet, the Times executive editor, said at a panel that he would risk prison to publish Trump’s tax returns.
The Times report capped what some are calling “among the worst weeks of any recent presidential campaign” and will surely focus more attention on Trump’s business practices and his refusal to release his federal tax returns. It also helps push forward a few of the lines of attack that Hillary Clinton used in the debate. NBC News explains:
One: That his refusal to release his taxes suggested he was concealing something important. Two: That his returns might show his business acumen was overstated. Three: That he paid little or no taxes despite his vast wealth.
And it lent credence to her larger argument that Trump is a heartless scrooge who left a trail of financial destruction on his path to wealth, and who according to the Times even refused to check off a box on his tax form to donate to a veterans’ memorial fund.
The complicated nature of the tax code and return means most voters don’t care about the details of Trump’s returns. But analysts immediately warned the story could “lead voters to question another pillar of his candidacy—his claim to be a successful businessman and an anti-politician who, unlike the insiders he maligns in Washington, tells the truth,” notes Politico.
The Clinton campaign has seized on the piece, saying it “reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump’s past business failures and just how long he may have avoided paying any federal income taxes whatsoever.”