Donald Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 state income tax returns, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.
In an article posted online Saturday night, previous tax returns appear to show the businessman and GOP nominee reported a nearly $1 billion loss, which could have been used to offset federal taxes.
An unsigned statement from the Trump campaign posted to its website late Saturday did not appear to deny or dispute a single fact in the Times story, but asserted the document was “illegally obtained.”
Trump himself tweeted early Sunday: “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.” Again, he did not deny or dispute the Times’ findings.
Three tax experts hired by the Times said the size of the deduction and tax rules governing wealthy filers could have allowed Trump to legally pay no federal income taxes for 18 years. There is nothing in the report that shows he actually took advantage of the rules to avoid paying taxes.
Trump has based his campaign on his experience as a successful businessman, vowing to rewrite trade agreements and make deals with other countries that would ensure jobs return to the U.S.
Trump has declined to release his tax returns, an issue which was raised by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton at the Sept. 26 presidential debate.
Clinton at the debate suggested the returns might show Trump hasn’t paid any federal taxes, which Trump did not address.
When Clinton said a couple years of returns when Trump was trying to get a casino license showed he didn’t pay any federal income taxes, Trump interjected: “That makes me smart.”
The Clinton campaign pounced on the Times report. Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted: “Trump’s returns show just how lousy a businessman he is AND how long he may have avoided paying any taxes.”
The Times published the first pages New York, Connecticut and New Jersey state tax returns online. The newspaper said the three pages were emailed to reporter Susanne Craig last month.
The Trump campaign in a statement after the report was published said the tax document was “illegally obtained.”
“The only news here is that the more than 20 year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained, a further demonstration that the New York Times, like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests,” the campaign said in a statement.
“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement continued. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes, along with very substantial charitable contributions.”
The Times also said a lawyer for Trump threatened legal action against the newspaper if the records were published, arguing in a letter to the Times that publishing records without Trump’s authorization would be illegal.
Trump’s tax returns have become a line of attack among Clinton and her supporters.
Vice President Joe Biden on the “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” on Thursday ripped Trump for his “that makes me smart” comment.
“What does that make the rest of us? Suckers? I really mean it. Think about it”, Biden told Fallon.
The tax experts hired by the Times said there is nothing in the 1995 documents that suggest any wrongdoing, the newspaper reported.
The Times said it showed the documents to an attorney who has handled Trump’s taxes for three decades, Jack Mitnick.
The paper reported that Mitnick said “This is legit,” referring to the documents.
The Trump campaign in its statement to NBC News criticizing the Times report Saturday used a version of a line he has used in his campaign.
“Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it,” the campaign said.
Trump in announcing a tax plan in September of 2015, which he later scrapped, said: “I fight like hell to pay as little as possible. Can I say that? I’m not a politician. I fight like hell always because it’s an expense.”