Trump Previously Paid $750 in Federal Income Tax — and Wrote-Off Apprentice Hairstyling: Report

Trump Previously Paid $750 in Federal Income Tax — and Wrote-Off Apprentice Hairstyling: Report

September 28, 2020

Recent years of President Donald Trump's tax return details have finally seen the light of day thanks to a bombshell new report — which he promptly dismissed as "totally fake news."

On Sunday, The New York Times published the first of several articles analyzing Trump's tax information, which he has avoided publicly releasing both before and during his time in office.

He is the first president in decades not to release such records, though he defended himself by citing an ongoing audit by the IRS. (The Times said the underlying information for its reporting “was provided by sources with legal access to it.”)

According to the exposé, the self-proclaimed billionaire paid a total of $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017 thanks to a nearly $10 million tax credit partially connected to a hotel project in Washington, D.C. 

Though the Times report did not cover 2018 and 2019 tax filings, the Times analyzed 18 years' worth of tax returns for Trump, 74, and his businesses going back to 2000, finding that he paid zero income taxes in 10 of those years. According to the paper, it was “largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.”

The Times found that, according to the Trump tax info it obtained, he “racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes” despite his millions in income and assets.

A Trump Organization attorney, Alan Garten, told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate.” But the paper said that the attorney, in Trump’s defense, seemed to be “conflating income taxes with other federal taxes” to argue Trump had, in his words, “paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes” in the last 10 years. 

The president also received a $72.9 million tax refund from the IRS starting in 2010, according to the Times, though the veracity of that payout is at the center of an ongoing audit battle whose status is still unclear.

Trump has been decidedly tight-lipped about the contents of his business dealings, which are anchored around the family's privately held Trump Organization. The Trumps have said that scrutiny about their money amounts to rumor-mongering and organized harassment — "POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!" as the president put it in a July 9 tweet.

A chorus of critics, however, say that Trump has hidden his finances (including his tax returns) like no other modern president, making it impossible to know what behind-closed-door deals he's made and to whom he may be secretly indebted, including foreign businesses.

The Times article contains numerous other details of how Trump has conducted his business and described his wealth over the years, such as his history of expenses claimed as deductions from his tax bill because they were the cost of doing business. The practice, which is not unusual, includes colorful Trump-specific examples such as some $70,000 in hairstyling costs during his time on NBC’s The Apprentice, more than $300,000 for landscaping, linens and silver for the operation of the Mar-a-Lago Club and some $95,000 written off by Trump groups for hair and makeup for his daughter Ivanka.

The Times executive editor, Dean Baquet, explained that the newspaper did not include the actual tax documents in its coverage so as not to potentially give up their sources.

"We are publishing this report because we believe citizens should understand as much as possible about their leaders and representatives — their priorities, their experiences and also their finances," Baquet wrote in an editor's note. "Every president since the mid-1970s has made his tax information public. The tradition ensures that an official with the power to shake markets and change policy does not seek to benefit financially from his actions."

When asked about the report during a White House press conference on Sunday, Trump wrote off the Times' piece as "fake news." He also lamented that the IRS "does not treat me well."

"It's totally fake news. Made-up, fake," he claimed. "We went through the same stories, people you could've asked me the same questions four years ago. I had to litigate this and talk about it. Totally fake news."

"Actually I paid tax, and you'll see that as soon as my tax returns — it's under audit," Trump told reporters. "They've been under audit for a long time. The IRS does not treat me well. … They don't treat me well; they treat me very badly. You have people in the IRS, they treat me very, very badly."

"But they're under audit," he again added of his tax returns. "And when they're not, I would be proud to show you, but that's just fake news." (An audit would not prevent Trump from disclosing his tax records to the public.)

Trump’s election rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, quickly seized on the new information with an attack ad comparing Trump’s taxes to firefighters and nurses.

The two are set to meet in the first presidential debate on Tuesday in Cleveland at 9 p.m. ET, moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace.

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