WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — In the weekly, almost daily, drumbeat of damaging headlines for the president, the one published Sunday evening by the New York Times goes right to the heart of his image and his appeal as a billionaire businesman.
NewsNation has not independently verified the Times report that President Trump has paid very little in taxes because of huge financial losses he has been able to take as deductions. But the president calls it fake news.
Trump denounced the story, which came out days before the first debate and five weeks before the election, as a complete fabrication.
“It’s fake. It’s totally fake news—made up. Fake,” Trump said.
The story, based on what the Times said was two decades worth of financial filings and other records, said the president paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, $750 during his first year in the White House, and no taxes at all during 10 of the previous 15 years – mostly, the paper said, because of hundreds of millions of dollars in business losses.
The story did not disclose how the Times acquired the records, and it said it would not make them public to protect sources.
The president tweeted that the information was illegally obtained “only with bad intent.” He has said he cannot release his tax returns because he is under an IRS audit, though the IRS says he can if he wishes.
The Trump organization spokesperson said that the president paid huge sums in taxes, but did not say what kind of taxes.
Matt Gardner is with the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington. He spoke with NewsNation’s Dean Reynolds about the New York Times report.
“This isn’t news that the president has avoided taxes,” Gardner said. “What’s new and really interesting to me about the latest report is that for the first time we have some serious questions about whether he is abiding by the letter of the law.”
Gardner tells NewsNation it’s not unusual for Americans to find ways to pay far less than the statutory rate, noting, “The president is certainly not alone in having done that. What’s unusual about this case, and yeah, I would say extraordinary, is the extent to which he has done it.”
Democrats seized on the story to show a disparity in what the president reportedly pays in taxes with what everyday American workers pay.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill paid $3.7 million in taxes in 2017 and about $1.5 million in 2018.
Presidents are not required by law to release their tax returns. But for the last 40 years, most of them have done so voluntarily.