Another extensive report from the New York Times was published Saturday evening after the paper obtained Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's 1995 income tax returns.
According to three pages of Trump's files, the self-described billionaire declared a $916 million loss earning him a substantial tax deduction ensuring he legally was able to avoid paying any taxes for up to 18 years.
According to the returns, he endured such substantial financial disaster from his three Atlantic City casinos in the 1990s and his attempt to start an airline business and purchasing the Plaza Hotel all spelled fiscal failure.
The Times had tax experts look into Trump's 1995 returns and they revealed that the loss was so large that it would have allowed him "to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period." Trump was paid $50,000 to $100,000 per episode for "The Apprentice" and also scored $45 million while serving as chairman or chief executive of a publicly traded company he created to take over the casinos. Still, the loss absolutely would have eliminated any possibility that Trump would have had to pay federal income taxes.
The documents show that Trump scored $7.4 million in interest income and $6,108 in wages, salaries and tips. He also was able to claim a $15.8 million loss for real estate holdings and partnerships thanks to a commercial real estate loophole.
Like many who take advantage of "S Corps" and limited-liability companies, Trump was able to essentially write off anything as a tax deduction. If his deductions were large enough, he also could have used them to avoid any income tax for future tax filing years.
Meaning, Mr. Trump would have paid even less in taxes than former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was criticized in 2012 for paying a lower tax rate than a secretary that worked for him.
Trump has not released his income taxes to the press showing his numbers since so, we have no real way of verifying
“He has a vast benefit from his destruction” in the early 1990s, said one of the experts, Joel Rosenfeld, an assistant professor at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. What Trump could have done is entirely legal considering substantial tax loopholes that protect the wealthy from paying their fair share. Both Clinton and President Obama have railed against such loopholes and pledged that they would close them, but Congress has had little political will to oblige.
When asked to verify the story the Trump campaign refused to confirm or deny the New York Times' findings.
“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 statement said. “That being said, 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.”
“Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it," the statement continued.
The documents were mailed anonymously to The Times with a New York postmark with a return address from Trump Tower. They were verified as legitimate after being inspected by lawyer and public accountant Jack Mitnick who handled Trump's taxes for more than 30 years until he semiretired in 1996 and eventually moved to Florida. The documents have both Trump and his then-wife Marla Maples social security numbers and signatures on them.
“This is legit,” he said.
The documents do not include any information about charities or donations Trump made in 1995. But it does show that when given the opportunity to donate to the Veterans' Memorial Fund, the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation Fund or the Children’s Trust Fund, he declined to do so. He also didn't chip in $1 for the public financing of the New Jersey elections.
At the time, Trump claimed he was worth $2 billion, but this filing doesn't confirm or refute that.
Anecdotally, Mitnick described Trump as being disinterested in his taxes. When he and former wife Ivana came to sign documents while he was doing them, Mitnick said Ivana was the one who asked all of the questions.