Trump refuses to discuss returns after report he paid only $750 in income taxes in 2016 and 2017

Trump refuses to discuss returns after report he paid only $750 in income taxes in 2016 and 2017


WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Sunday refused to discuss his tax returns after a report said he paid only $750 in personal federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, and he paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. 

Trump dismissed a New York Times investigation into his tax records, which revealed a string of financial losses that helped him avoid paying taxes, as well as millions in debt that will come due within the next four years. The analysis also found Trump earned millions abroad after he took office, raising questions about whether it conflicts with his role as president. 

The president dismissed the story Sunday during a news conference, calling the reporting “totally fake news.” Trump told reporters at the White House that “actually I paid tax,” but said he would not release returns on his own because they are under IRS audit, an excuse he has used for years.

When pressed to give an estimate of how much he pays in federal income taxes, Trump declined to give any figures.

“I paid a lot and I paid a lot of state income taxes, too,” Trump said. “New York State charges a lot and I paid a lot of money in state.”

Just before the news conference began, The New York Times posted a story saying that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he won the presidency, and another $750 in 2017, his first year in office.

The Times, citing tax return data it obtained spanning two decades, also said Trump paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, “largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.” Those losses enabled Trump to lower his taxable income, or drop it to zero. 

The Times said “his reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes.”

The investigation found that while Trump declared losses, he continued to maintain a luxurious lifestyle by deducting taxes on what could be considered personal expenses, including declaring his estates as investment properties and writing off aircraft travel between his properties as business expenses.

Trump wrote off more than $70,000 for hair-styling services during “The Apprentice.” 

The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, also allegedly received “consulting fees” while working as a Trump Organization employee, further helping to reduce the family’s tax bill. 

The Times found that Trump made $73 million from his foreign operations. While most of the revenue came from his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland, he also made $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey. After he took office, Trump vowed he would no longer pursue foreign deals. 

Trump will have to repay more than $300 million in loans, which he has personally guaranteed, within the next four years.

The president dismissed the story as “fake news” and said that details about his taxes would “all be revealed,” but gave no timeline on when he would disclose his records. 

Trump was the first major presidential candidate in four decades to refuse to release tax returns. The president is currently embroiled in a legal battle with New York prosecutors seeking his tax records.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is investigating hush money payments allegedly made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump before the 2016 presidential election. Vance’s office suggested in court documents last month that prosecutors are also looking broadly at “allegations of possible criminal activity” at the Trump Organization. 

Trump has dismissed Vance’s investigation as a political “witch hunt” and has fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep his financial records private. 

More: Trump investigation goes beyond hush money to alleged mistresses, Manhattan DA suggests

The newspaper said “additional articles” on Trump’s taxes “will be published in the coming weeks.” It did not publish actual returns, arguing it wanted to protect its sources.

The president campaigned in 2016 on his record as a successful businessman who raked in millions by making great deals. 

Alan Garten, a lawyer from the Trump Organization, told the Times “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” in the report. 

“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,” Garten told the Times in a statement.

The Times pointed out that Garten used the term “personal taxes,” which could include other federal taxes such as Social Security, Medicare and taxes for his household employees. 

The report comes two days before Trump is set to face his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the first presidential debate, and just 37 days before the election. 

Pollster Frank Luntz said the report “won’t change a single decided vote,” but could hurt Trump among people who haven’t decided. “He needs every undecided voter, and they won’t like this at all,” Luntz said.

Luntz said the news will likely affect Tuesday’s debate.

“This could not happen at a worse time for him,” Luntz said. “Candidates want positive stories in the hours before a debate. Negative stories will tilt the playing field against him.”

Democrats quickly questioned the legality of Trump’s tax maneuvers.

“This may be why @realDonaldTrump has potential legal problems,” tweeted Democratic strategist David Axelrod. “If you claim massive losses to avoid paying federal income taxes but inflate your revenues and assets on bank documents for loan purposes, wouldn’t that constitute fraud?”

Trump said he has many filings from many of his companies, and “nobody talks about that … They’re very big, they’re very powerful and very accurate.”

The president’s supporters said the news report needs to be scrutinized, noting that the newspaper did not publish the actual returns.

“There’s no way to assess the veracity of the reporting without the returns being published,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican political consultant. “The New York Times says they have them. Why not publish them? There are only two possible explanations: They were illegally acquired or they don’t exist.”

The Times reported that it “declined to provide the records” to the Trump Organization “in order to protect its sources.” It also reported: “All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it.”

Contributing: Kristine Phillips 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump mum on returns after report he paid only little or no income tax

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