According to the NY Times, in 1995 Donald Trump declared on his taxes that he lost $918 million. How can someone claim to be a good businessman when they have lost almost a billion dollars in one year? Second, because our tax code is tilted toward the rich, this almost certainly meant that Trump didn’t have to pay any income taxes for 18 years.
Trump and his surrogates immediately tried to claim that this proves that Trump is smart. Trump himself said “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.” But he’s already released his plans to revamp the tax code, and all they contain are more tax breaks for the rich. Tax experts who have reviewed his plans say they would do nothing to stop people like Trump from avoiding all taxes, and in fact would tilt our tax system even more toward the rich.
Besides, Trump has a long history of blasting other people for not paying taxes. So how does not paying any taxes make him smart?
When that tactic didn’t help, Trump (now flailing a bit) tried to suggest (with absolutely no evidence) that Hillary Clinton had cheated on Bill. This from Trump, who very publicly cheated on his first wife.
UPDATE: A tweet puts this insanely large failure and loss that Trump precipitated in 1995 in perspective. In 1995, the total net operating loss (NOL) for every company in the US was $49.331 billion. That means that Trump’s loss of $916 million (which is $1.5 billion in today’s dollars) was 1.9% off all business losses for that year. It is beyond belief that anyone could possibly lose that much money.
We sometimes talk about “the 1%” — the 1% richest people in the world. How stupid and incompetent would you have to be to singlehandedly lose almost 2% of all business losses for the entire US? We will never know, unless Trump releases his tax returns. And if you lost that much money, you would be insanely deep in debt. To whom does Trump owe money? Who is pulling his strings? The Russians? Criminals? Worse? Again, we will never know unless Trump releases his tax returns.
UPDATE2: According to one expert on tax avoidance, a likely answer (to how you lose that much money) is that Trump only lost that money “on paper” and didn’t actually lose much of any real money. To do that, he would “park” the debt in some offshore entity which holds the debt but never collects it. That way Trump still has the loss on his books, where it won’t actually cost him anything but he can still use it to offset his taxes. In other words, Trump’s loss was an accounting fiction.
UPDATE3! Donald Trump claims that he “brilliantly” used tax law to pay a minimum of taxes, and his surrogates say that Trump is a “genius” at avoiding paying taxes. But his former accountant (who prepared the tax returns leaked to the NY Times) refuted that, and pointed out that Trump had nothing to do with figuring his taxes other than signing them.
Also published on Medium.