Trump lashes out at New York Times report alleging years of tax avoidance

According to The New York Times, Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency and again during his first year in office.
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The New York Times obtained two decades of President Donald Trump's tax information, reporting Sunday that the president paid only $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency and again during his first year in office.

The Times reported that Trump has not paid any income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years, mostly because he reported significant losses. It reported that Trump is facing a decade-long Internal Revenue Service audit over a $72.9 million tax refund he received that could end up costing him more than $100 million.

The Times also reported that Trump has more than $300 million in loans coming due within the next few years that he is personally responsible for repaying.

The paper said it plans to publish additional stories based on the documents. On Monday evening it published another based on Trump’s tax records that details how he earned $197 million directly from his reality show “The Apprentice,” which aired on NBC from 2004 to 2017, and an additional $230 million from the renewed fame the show created for Trump. The story also details how he used this fame to rebuild his brand and reputation as a business mogul.

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, in a statement to the newspaper called the story “fake news” and “yet another politically motivated hit piece full of inaccurate smears” appearing “before a presidential debate.”

The tax documents cover more than two decades, including some of his time as president, but they do not include his returns from 2018 and 2019. NBC News has not seen or verified any of the documents reported by The Times.

Trump said Sunday that the story was "totally fake news" and "made up," although he acknowledged that he "didn't know anything about the story" ahead of its publication, which came moments before his news conference began.

Asked about the report that he paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and again in 2017, Trump said he has "paid a lot of money in state" taxes, although he was not specific about how much.

In a series of tweets Monday morning, Trump said that the information was "illegally obtained" and that he "paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits."

"Also, if you look at the extraordinary assets owned by me, which the Fake News hasn’t, I am extremely under leveraged — I have very little debt compared to the value of assets," he tweeted. "Much of this information is already on file, but I have long said that I may release ... Financial Statements, from the time I announced I was going to run for President, showing all properties, assets and debts. It is a very IMPRESSIVE Statement, and also shows that I am the only President on record to give up my yearly $400,000 plus Presidential Salary!"

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement Monday, "This is a big nothingburger and a pre-debate attack intended solely to help Joe Biden. It ought to be reported as an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign."

Republicans have stayed largely silent on the bombshell report, but Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the top Republican on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, called for an investigation into how the Times obtained the president’s personal financial documents.

“While many critics question the article’s accuracy, equally troubling is the prospect that a felony crime was committed by releasing the private tax return information of an individual — in this case the President’s,” Brady said in a statement. “To ensure every American is protected against the illegal release of their tax returns for political reasons, I am calling for an investigation of the source and to prosecute if the law was broken.”

In response to the report, Joe Biden's presidential campaign released a brief video on Twitter saying what average workers typically pay in income taxes based on 2019 data, including an elementary school teacher ($7,239), a firefighter ($5,283), a construction manager ($16,447), and a registered nurse ($10,216), contrasting those numbers with Trump's reported tax payment.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., meanwhile, tweeted asking people to raise their hands "if you paid more in federal income tax than President Trump."

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement that Trump "has gamed the tax code to his advantage and used legal fights to delay or avoid paying what he owes."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement, "It is a sign of President Trump's disdain for America's working families that he has spent years abusing the tax code while passing a GOP Tax Scam for the rich that gives 83 percent of the benefits to the wealthiest 1 percent."

Trump again pledged to make his taxes public after the completion of an IRS audit, which he has said for years is why he is not making the documents public.

The Times reported that, boosted by a substantial increase in income tied to his celebrity in the 11 years after "The Apprentice" premiered, the president went on a spending spree unseen since the days before the demise of his finances of the early 1990s. But The Times said the documents revealed that the new ventures and acquisitions contributed to a drag on his bottom line rather than increased it.

In a statement to NBC News, a Trump Organization lawyer, Alan Garten, claimed that the story was "riddled with gross inaccuracies."

"Over the past decade the President has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government," Garten said.

While The Times reported that Trump did not pay income taxes for several years, he did pay other forms of federal taxes, including Medicare, Social Security and the alternative minimum tax.

The Times has previously reported about Trump's tax information, having obtained such documents — although far fewer — earlier in Trump's presidency.

Trump has waged a coast-to-coast legal battle throughout his presidency in hope of keeping the tax information hidden from the public. Trump is the only president in the past 40 years to have withheld his taxes from the public. No law requires presidents to make their taxes public.

Although he said he would release the information ahead of the 2016 election, he has since repeatedly cited IRS audits as a rationale for continuing to withhold his records.

This summer, Trump assailed a pair of Supreme Court rulings pertaining to his personal financial records, calling them "not fair," although they were not clear-cut losses for the president.

Kelly O'Donnell and Rebecca Shabad contributed.