It isn’t a new idea that President Trump is better at playing a billionaire on TV than earning enough money to be one in real life. But The New York Times got the goods to prove it — 18 years worth of tax documents, from 2000 to 2018 — and released the first bombshell Sunday night (while promising to “publish additional articles about our findings” in coming weeks). It’s a doozy.
One eye-catching takeaway from the deep look into Trump’s strenuously shielded tax filings is that Trump loses a lot of money. Like, a lot. He loses millions at his prized foreign and U.S. golf properties, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and many of the roughly 500 entities that make up the Trump Organization.
The Times also details how Trump uses those deep-red losses to avoid paying federal income tax, at least in the U.S. There was a two-year period in which he made too much money to avoid paying taxes, thanks to his share in NBC’s The Apprentice, but he then filed for a refund when the opportunity presented itself after the 2008 financial meltdown. That $72.9 million in refunded taxes plus interest is under audit and has been for years, the Times reports. Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in both 2016 and 2017, the most recent years in the data the Times obtained.
But “the picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise,” deep in debt with the bill coming due, the Times reports. That raises the troubling question of whether Trump can literally afford to lose power on Nov. 3 — and what he might do to prevent an electoral defeat and financial ruin.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump proclaimed himself the “King of Debt,” telling CBS’s Norah O’Donnell that “nobody knows debt better than me. … I’ve made a fortune by using debt, and if things don’t work out I renegotiate the debt. I mean, that’s a smart thing, not a stupid thing.” Renegotiating means “you go back and you say, ‘Hey, guess what, the economy crashed,'” he explained. “‘I’m going to give you back half.'” That nearly destroyed him in the early 1990s, after almost all his bets failed in short order.
The lessons Trump learned in the early 1990s “undoubtedly shaped his business approach and the conservative nature of how we conduct business today,” Eric Trump, who currently runs the Trump Organization for his father, told The Washington Post in 2018. Trump started paying cash for properties in about 2006, when his Apprentice money started coming in.
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Source: The Week