Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 after reporting millions in losses, report claims

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Griffin Connolly

Donald Trump paid no federal income tax in 10 of the past 15 years and only $750 in the year he was elected following a presidential campaign in which he repeatedly boasted of his success as a billionaire businessman, according to filings.

The president only paid a further $750 in 2017, his first in the White House, show long-withheld tax returns obtained by The New York Times. The filings show Mr Trump has been saddled for years with debt and incurred losses in ways that have allowed him to avoid paying income taxes at the rates one might expect for a self-proclaimed billionaire, the newspaper reported after sifting through documents spanning decades.

The president has fiercely protected his tax filings and is the only president of modern times not to make them public, bringing long-running legal challenges to prevent House Democrats obtaining them. During his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump pitched himself as wealthy property mogul with “tremendous cash flow” and business acumen that would benefit the US if entered the White House. But his tax filings tell a much different story, according to the Times.

“Most of Mr Trump’s core enterprises — from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington — report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year,” the paper reported. On top of that, he is on the books for hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid loans — more than $300m over the next four years alone, bills he is personally liable for, the Times story states.

Mr Trump is also under audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for a $72.9m tax refund he applied for and secured years ago after he reported millions of dollars in losses. He could be liable to pay back more than $100m depending on the outcome of that audit, the Times has reported.

Congressman Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat on the House panel that has been pursuing Mr Trump’s taxes, called the Times report a “blockbuster” and said it was “disgusting” Mr Trump did not pay any federal taxes for 10 of the last 15 years. “I have been leading Congress’s fight to get the Trump tax returns since he took office. I’m going to be reading every word of this blockbuster to see how far the crimes go. Wow,” Mr Pascrell said.

Mr Trump denied the contents of the Times report at a previously scheduled press conference within minutes of its publication on Sunday. “It’s fake news. Totally fake news. Made up,” Mr Trump said, without addressing any of the story’s specifics.

“Actually, I paid tax and you will see that as soon as my tax returns… they are under audit,” the president added, repeating a common refrain from the White House and his campaign team use to explain why he has not released his financial files, a customary step taken by every major-party presidential candidate for decades. “It’ll all be revealed. It’s gonna come out,” Mr Trump claimed of his tax returns.

The president’s filings show that he raked in $427.4m from his reality TV show The Apprentice and endorsement and licensing deals stemming from his celebrity image, the Times reported. Mr Trump leveraged those earnings to invest in various business ventures and golf resorts that have, as the Times puts it, “devoured cash”.

Increasingly, the president has relied on revenues from business dealings that have created a conflict-of-interest minefield, such as name licensing fees for buildings in countries with strongman leaders such as Turkey ($1m) and the Philippines ($3m) and an uptick in business from political groups at his hotels and golf clubs. Mr Trump’s personal businesses have made $23m from political groups — including his own presidential campaign — since 2015, according to Federal Election Commission data.

His presidential campaign has lined his personal pockets to the tune of $2.3m since he took office, using the money it has raised from major Republican donors and hundreds of thousands of individual Trump supporters to pay off the campaign’s lodging, food and rent bills at Trump hotels, resorts and business spaces.

One example of the campaign enriching him personally is his campaign committee, Donald J Trump for President, spending $37,542 per month to operate out of Trump Tower in New York. A lawyer for the Trump Organisation, Alan Garten, told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts” in its report “appear to be inaccurate”. But Mr Garten only took direct umbrage with the Times characterisation of the amount of money Mr Trump had paid in taxes.

“Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Mr Garten said in a statement. However, the statement about “personal taxes” does not address the Times’ bombshell claim that Mr Trump only paid $750 in federal income taxes.

“With the term ‘personal taxes’ … Mr Garten appears to be conflating income taxes with other federal taxes Mr Trump has paid — Social Security, Medicare and taxes for his household employees,” the newspaper states.

A Trump campaign source downplayed the consequences of Sunday’s report, noting the Times ran a similar story on the president’s tax filings before the first debate between Mr Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Source: The Independent