US President Donald Trump avoided tax for years, report finds

US President Donald Trump || AlJazeera Photo

President Donald Trump paid little or no federal income tax for years before becoming president, according to a New York Times report. The revelations come just weeks before the US election.

President Donald Trump paid just $750 (€644) in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he ran for president, and in 2017, his first year in the White House, according to a report Sunday in The New York Times.

He also paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years because he reported losing more money than he made, the report said.

Trump has fiercely guarded his tax filings and is the only US president in modern times not to make them public, despite saying he would.

The report comes at a pivotal moment ahead of the first presidential debate Tuesday and weeks before a divisive election against Democrat rival Joe Biden.

The disclosure comes from tax return data the Times obtained extending over 20 years.

Trump dismissed the accusations as “totally fake news,” during a press conference on Sunday.

“First of all, I paid a lot and I paid a lot of state income taxes too … It’ll all be revealed,” the Republican president said.

Democrats jumped on the allegations, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying it showed “Trump’s disdain for America’s working families.”

Biden’s campaign team posted a tweet stating how much federal income tax had been paid by teachers ($7,239), firefighters ($5,283) and nurses ($10,216) — workers who have been hit hard by the global coronavirus pandemic and US wildfires  — in comparison to Trump.

How did Trump reduce his tax bill?

The report in the Times showed that Trump found multiple ways to reduce his tax bill.

He took tax deductions on personal expenses such as housing, aircraft and $70,000 to style his hair while he filmed a reality TV game show named “The Apprentice.”

Losses in the property businesses solely owned and managed by Trump appear to have offset income from his stake in the game show and other entities with multiple owners.

During the first two years of his presidency, Trump relied on business tax credits to reduce his tax obligations. The Times said $9.7 million worth of business investment credits that were submitted after Trump requested an extension to file his taxes allowed him to offset his obligations and pay just $750 each in 2016 and 2017.

From 2010 onwards, Trump reduced his tax bill via a $72.9 million tax refund that is the subject of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit, said the Times report.

What else did the report find?

The details of the tax filings revealed a series of financial losses and income from abroad that could come into conflict with his responsibilities as president.

Trump’s financial disclosures indicated he earned at least $434.9 million in 2018, but the tax filings reported a $47.4 million loss,  including from some of his best-known businesses.

The president claimed $315 million in losses since 2000 on his golf courses, including the Trump National Doral near Miami that Trump has portrayed as a crown jewel in his business empire

During his first two years as president, Trump received $73 million from foreign operations. These included his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland as well as $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey — among other nations.

The president in 2017 paid $145,400 in taxes in India and $156,824 in the Philippines, compared to just $750 in US income taxes.

The tax records did not reveal any unreported connections to Russia, reported the Times.

They did, however, reveal that lobbyists, foreign governments and politicians had all spent significant sums of money at his properties including his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida since Trump began his presidential run.

The report showed that Trump is set to face mounting financial pressure from debts, including a $100 million mortgage on Trump Tower in New York that will come due in 2022.

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