Three pages of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s income tax returns from 1995 show that Trump declared a $916 million loss that year, a loss that would allow him to legally avoid paying more than $50 million a year in taxable income for almost two decades.
Susanne Craig of The New York Times was the reporter who broke the story after discovering a manila envelope in her Times mailbox which appeared to contain three copies of what appeared to be documents of Trump’s 1995 tax returns.
The documents included the first page of a New Jersey nonresident tax return, the first page of a Connecticut nonresident tax return and the first page of a New York State resident income tax return.
The documents were mailed anonymously but had a postmark from Trump Tower.
Each document contained the Social Security numbers of Trump and his then wife, Marla Maples, but only the New Jersey form had their signatures.
The New York Times contacted Trump’s former lawyer and certified public accountant, Jack Mitnick, who handled Trump’s taxes for more than 30 years until 1996 to confirm the authenticity.
Mitnick told the Times that he no longer had access to Trump’s original returns but that the documents did appear to be authentic. His signature was on the tax preparer line of the New Jersey tax form.
There is one anomaly in the documents that has raised questions over its authenticity. On Line 18 of the New York document, “5,729,293” was originally printed. An additional “-91” was manually added in front of it, changing the total loss to “-915,729,293.”
Mitnick confirmed to The New York Times that this manual addition was real and done by him.
According to Mitnick, his tax software program would not allow him to print a nine-figure loss on Trump’s New York return so he had to manually add the “-91” on his typewriter, explaining why the numbers were in a different font and slightly misaligned with the rest of the numbers.
Some of the losses Trump had in the tax records involved a failed airline, three Atlantic City casinos and what the Times calls an “ill-timed” purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
Since there is no federal tax return document, no one is able to determine how much money Trump donated to charity that year but The New York Times also notes that this extraordinary loss does not mean that Trump was effectively bankrupt in 1995 or unable to pay any of his debts.
While it’s unclear if Trump has truly avoided paying taxes for 18 years, it’s important to note that under the rules of the I.R.S., through a tax provision known as net operating loss, or N.O.L., if a person’s losses are big enough, they can cancel taxable income that was earned three years before and 15 years after the loss, depending on the individual state’s tax protocol.
The N.O.L. “allows a dizzying array of deductions, business expenses, real estate depreciation, losses from the sale of business assets and even operating losses to flow from the balance sheets of those partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations onto the personal tax returns of men like Mr. Trump,” The New York Times wrote. “In turn, those losses can be used to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income from say, book royalties or branding deals.”
This means that while he could have been avoiding paying taxes for the past 18 years, he’s been doing so legally under the law.
The Trump campaign has neither denied nor confirmed the accuracy and authenticity of the documents but did release a statement stating that The New York Times illegally obtained the alleged 20 year-old tax document.
The statement also said that Trump is a skilled businessman who has paid hundreds of million of dollars in different taxes along with “substantial charitable contributions” and holds a responsibility to his business, family and employees to pay only the tax that is legally required.
Trump has repeatedly said throughout his campaign that he has used the laws of this country to his advantage. If these tax documents are proven to be authentic, therefore meaning that Trump has used legal measures to save himself money, then what exactly is the problem here?
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