While President Trump won over supporters partly by hailing his own business savvy, previously unseen tax returns reveal that he suffered over $1 billion in business losses in a single decade and managed to avoid paying federal income tax for several years in a row, The New York Times reports, citing 10 years' worth of financial records.
While the tax information revealed by the Times covers 1985 to 1994, predating the more recent tax periods under scrutiny by Democrats wary of Trump’s business ties with Russia, the tax returns do shed some light on his deal-making tactics.
The Key Takeaways:
He Got Out of Paying Income Taxes for Eight Years
The numbers cited by the Times show that Trump lost a total of $1.17 billion from 1985 to 1994. He lost so much money throughout the decade that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years, according to the report.
Since most of the money lost was borrowed from banks and bond investors, however, Trump didn’t suffer the same consequences others might in the face of such steep business losses.
He Apparently Lost More Than Any Other Taxpayer
In 1990 and 1991, Trump reported losses of more than $250 million—more than double that of any other high-income individual taxpayer for those years based on IRS data, according to Times.
The Times reports that the trend appeared to repeat throughout the entire decade, with Trump appearing to lose “more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer” year after year.
He Made Millions by Posing as a Corporate Raider
From 1986 to 1988, Trump reportedly made $57 million by posing as a corporate raider intent on taking over companies including Hilton Hotels, the Gillette razor company, and Federated Department Stores. Using borrowed money, he reportedly bought up shares in the companies before putting out the message that he was about to buy enough to become a majority owner—and then sold the stock once the price subsequently shot up. While the “corporate raider” tactic has previously been reported, the newly revealed tax information shows Trump actually lost most of the gains he made in that period, according to the Times. And by 1989, many investors had already wised up to his takeover ploys.
The Taj Mahal Payday
The year of 1988 stands out for the $67.1 million in salary Trump recorded that year—a sum that amounts to 90 percent of his total regular wages for all ten years, according to the Times. The figure reportedly stems mostly from a payment he got as part of a deal to purchase the unfinished Taj Mahal casino from talk-show-host-turned-real-estate-mogul Merv Griffin, whose company paid Trump $63 million.
By 1990, however, the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino opened its doors already more than $800 million in debt. The purchase failed to bring in enough revenue and consequently bled his other casinos dry. As a result, Trump’s combined losses for 1990 and 1991 amounted to $517.6 million.
How ‘Ardent’ Is the ‘Ardent Philanthropist?’
While Trump has frequently boasted about the tens of millions he has given to charity over the years, even describing himself as an “ardent philanthropist” in his 1987 book The Art of the Deal, the tax transcripts reviewed by the Times for 1985 to 1994 reportedly showed no itemized deductions for charitable donations.
Since Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income for every year in the decade, he could not deduct any charitable donations. The Times notes, however, that deductions could have been carried over to a future year if Trump reported a positive income.
The release of Trump’s financial information comes amid an ongoing battle between House Democrats and Trump allies for access to his tax returns. The president has sought to stop his banks from turning over his tax information by filing a flurry of lawsuits. And earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin defied a formal request from Congress to access the president’s tax returns, claiming the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
A lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, told the Times that the paper’s statements “about the president’s tax returns and business from 30 years ago are highly inaccurate,” but cited no specific errors.