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Real Estate Losses Allowed Trump to Pay Almost Nothing in Taxes

Wikimedia Commons/MichaelVadon

Last week's release of Donald Trump's tax returns shows that the former President paid very little in taxes over a six year period. The documents reveal that Trump utilized real estate tax law to pay less than $2M over the course of his presidency and $750 or less for three of the years in question. The fight over releasing the former president's tax returns made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, House Democrats were successful in compelling the disclosure and releasing them before Republicans take over the majority on January 3rd.

The returns “show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises,” Trump said in a statement. Additionally, Trump warned of consequences and asserted that this act was an invasion of taxpayer privacy.

Outright, the returns do not smack of illegality, however, the picture is far from complete when viewed in the context of the complexity of, and number of businesses Trump is affiliated with. Friday's tax returns represent just seven of his businesses with the total count of businesses Trump is tied to being over 400. One thing that is clear, is that year after year Trump reported massive losses to the I.R.S.

Critics note that this goes against his image of being a successful businessman. “He’s a staggering loser,” Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told the L.A. Times.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Kevin J. Brady, vice president and certified financial planner at Wealthspire Advisors, said. “Businesses are supposed to be in the business of making money,” “If they’re constantly losing money, it begs the question of whether they’re real businesses.”

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