New York Times Publishes Trump Tax Data Spanning Ten Years

American businessman Donald Trump standing on the ice of Wollman Rink in Central Park, Manhattan, New York City, October 1986. (Photo by Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The New York Times has published the personal tax data of President Donald Trump spanning a decade’s worth of time from long before he was a candidate for president, saying the documents show that Trump lost more than a billion dollars in the timeframe of 1985 to 1994.

While not actual tax returns, the Times says the data includes never-before-public information from the tax returns–obtained from tax transcripts that glean data from the 1040 forms Trump filed with the IRS.

Times reporters Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig wrote in the piece published Tuesday evening:

By the time his master-of-the-universe memoir ‘Trump: The Art of the Deal’ hit bookstores in 1987, Donald J. Trump was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals, according to previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns. Mr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition. The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the center of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse.

The lengthy Times piece goes on to explain how these documents show Trump, over that decade, reported losses totaling $1.17 billion in just ten years.

Buettner and Craig wrote:

The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade. In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years. Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the I.R.S. later required changes after audits.

In response to the Times investigation, Trump critics in the media and Democrat Party piled on quickly with criticisms of the president:

It is unclear who the source of these documents was, but some have speculated the Times hinted at who it might have been that leaked these documents to the newspaper:

The Times says it has been in contact with the White House about this information for some time.

“The White House’s response to the new findings has shifted over time,” Buettner and Craig wrote, adding this summary of White House statements:

Several weeks ago, a senior official issued a statement saying: “The president got massive depreciation and tax shelter because of large-scale construction and subsidized developments. That is why the president has always scoffed at the tax system and said you need to change the tax laws. You can make a large income and not have to pay large amount of taxes.”

On Saturday, after further inquiries from The Times, a lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, wrote that the tax information was “demonstrably false,” and that the paper’s statements “about the president’s tax returns and business from 30 years ago are highly inaccurate.” He cited no specific errors, but on Tuesday added that “I.R.S. transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate” and “would not be able to provide a reasonable picture of any taxpayer’s return.”

Multiple ongoing battles remain over Trump’s taxes, and the Times notes that this information does not meet the standards or level of information that the Democrats in Congress are seeking to get.

“The new tax information does not answer questions raised by House Democrats in their pursuit of the last six years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns — about his recent business dealings and possible foreign sources of financing and influence,” Buettner and Craig wrote. “Nor does it offer a fundamentally new narrative of his picaresque career.”

There remains an ongoing battle in Washington over Trump’s tax returns, as Democrats from the House Ways and Means Committee in Congress have requested that the IRS provide them to the committee–efforts that have been rebuffed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But that’s not all: The Attorney General’s office in the state of New York is also investigating Trump’s finances and has been trying to acquire various documents and information about the Trump Organization.

Buettner and Craig continued:

In Washington, the struggle over access to Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial information has sharpened in recent days, amid partisan warfare over the findings in the Mueller report. On Monday, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he would not deliver the tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee. And after vowing that “we’re fighting all the subpoenas” from House Democrats, the president has filed lawsuits against his banks and accounting firm to prevent them from turning over tax returns and other financial records.

In New York, the attorney general’s office is investigating the financing of several major Trump Organization projects; Deutsche Bank has already begun turning over documents. The state attorney general is also examining issues raised last year by The Times’s investigation, which revealed that much of the money Mr. Trump had received from his father came from his participation in dubious tax schemes, including instances of outright fraud.

Despite the new data that the Times has uncovered here, it is unclear whether there will be any actual change in public opinion regarding Trump on this front. Democrats have been attacking him for years over his refusal to release his tax returns, something no successful presidential candidate for decades has done, and leaks of parts of the president’s personal tax documents have already surfaced in years past. In 2016, the Times obtained part of the president’s 1995 tax filing via what it says was an anonymous source who mailed it to the newspaper–and journalist David Cay Johnston got part of Trump’s 2005 tax returns in 2017, also from a mailed source.

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