There’s only one news story popping up for the Sunday morning circus and it’s the long anticipated October surprise from the New York Times. Late Saturday evening they released a partial set of state tax documents belonging to Donald Trump which show a nearly one billion dollar business loss he took more than twenty years ago. As Business Insider explains, this factoid allows them to speculate that The Donald may have paid no federal taxes for nearly twenty years.
Donald Trump may have avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years, according to tax records obtained by The New York Times and published on Saturday night.
The documents indicated that Trump declared a $916 million loss in 1995, providing him with a deduction so large it could have eliminated his obligation to legally pay annual federal taxes by up to $50 million for nearly two decades, tax experts told The Times.
The fire under all of this smoke is, of course, barely enough to light a cigar, but that’s not the point of the story. You’ll notice a constant set of phrases in all of the coverage of this “bombshell” release. They include things such as, might have and could have or may not have paid. That’s because the actual document only shows a massive loss which Trump claimed in 1995. What’s been established is that the loss in question opened the door to Trump potentially not owing any federal taxes over a considerable period of time because of the $916M loss. What’s also mentioned in decidedly muted tones is that if Trump wound up not owing any federal tax, that it was completely legal.
Let’s assume for a moment that Trump took full advantage of the tax laws in the way being described. (And frankly I’d start questioning his sanity if he didn’t.) This means that the Times has “caught” him following the tax code to pay the smallest amount of tax possible under the law. I mean, it’s not like anyone else does that, right? If Trump were A Good Person he would have massively overpaid his taxes and then we could all celebrate what a wonderful fellow he is, just like the people who handle the tax returns of the New York Times. Oh, wait… in 2014 the Gray Lady paid zero taxes and received millions in refunds despite having declared a substantial profit. (Forbes)
More recently, for tax year 2014, The New York Times paid no taxes and got an income tax refund of $3.5 million even though they had a pre-tax profit of $29.9 million in 2014. In other words, their post-tax profit was higher than their pre-tax profit. The explanation in their 2014 annual report is, “The effective tax rate for 2014 was favorably affected by approximately $21.1 million for the reversal of reserves for uncertain tax positions due to the lapse of applicable statutes of limitations.” If you don’t think it took fancy accountants and tax lawyers to make that happen, read the statement again.
But enough about hypocrisy. This was never about taxes to begin with and was always about the politics going on behind the scenes. The response to all of this from the Trump campaign was predictable and, if we’re to be honest, accurate.
“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,” a campaign statement said.
I wonder where those tax documents came from? The person who the Times describes as an anonymous source might want to take a look at 26 U.S. Code § 6103 – Confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information. The law has been broken here, but there’s scant mention of that in the Gray Lady. Imagine our surprise.
Since the New York Times and their allies are engaging in the speculation game here (“could have paid no taxes” etc.) let’s do a bit of that ourselves. What are the odds that the original person or persons who illegally obtained Trump’s tax documents and gifted them to the Gray Lady were only able to get their hands on a few pages of partial tax documents from a single year? Pretty much zero. There’s probably quite a bit more and the Times almost certainly is sitting on them, just as they likely sat on these documents until what they deemed was the most opportune time to provide the maximum help to Hillary Clinton. With that in mind, why not release them in a drip, drip, drip fashion? Every time another story breaks about Hillary Clinton’s emails, her repeated lies on the subject and the preferential treatment she received from the FBI, the New York Times can drop another tax document in an attempt to swamp the news cycle.
Of course we don’t know that, just as the Times (thus far) doesn’t know that Trump paid no taxes. But if I were trying to game the election that’s certainly how I’d do it.