Here’s What You Need to Know About Donald Trump’s Tax Returns

Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has yet to release his tax returns. However, according to The New York Times, Trump’s 1995 tax records indicate that a $916 million loss may have given him grounds to stop paying his federal income taxes for nearly 18 years.


The Times report comes less than one week after Trump and Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton had their first debate. Those who tuned in saw 90 minutes’ worth of back-and-forth bashes, many of which centered on Trump’s financial history. Although, as CNN reports, the candidate still refuses to make his tax returns public, the information uncovered by the Times has certainly granted us something to grapple with for the next month.

For starters, we now know that the bad business moves Trump made throughout the early 1990s could have worked to his advantage. According to the Times, the $916 million loss Trump reported in 1995 was so hefty that it likely helped him avoid paying taxes on the money he earned from “The Apprentice” and other positions he held over the following 18 years.

How does this work? Basically, U.S. tax law says that if you lose money through your business, you can deduct the amount of your losses from your taxable income. As Vox explains, if Trump made $50 million in 1996, he wouldn't have to pay taxes on it—because of the $916 million loss. And because $916 million is such a massive number, even if Trump continued to make $50 million in income every year, it would take 18 years before he could stop using the loss to get tax breaks. Again, this is all completely legal—but it obviously doesn't look great. Trump's spent his campaign talking about how Americans shouldn't have to pay so much in taxes, but by ducking out on his own contribution, he's forced Americans making a lot less money than him to foot the bill for our country's many social and structural needs.

This information feels like a much-needed first glimpse into Trump’s mysterious tax situation, but The Washington Post points out that publishing it was also a potential violation of federal law. The Times received Trump’s tax return from an anonymous source. Because it then proceeded to publish the documents without his permission, Trump is threatening legal action.

Despite Trump’s love for the law, the Times reports that his campaign responded to its feature with a pretty meaningless statement.

“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” Trump’s campaign said. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes.”

Hope you’re not tired of the word taxes. We have a feeling you’ll be hearing and seeing a lot more of it between now and Nov. 8.