Rich Galen nicely summarizes the first October Surprise of the 2016 campaign:
In light of what was in all probability an illegally leaked copy of a couple of pages of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return, we now know he paid no federal income taxes for 18 years.
It seems that Trump lost $916 million in one year. The tax code allows you to reimburse yourself for bad business decisions by deducting a ginormous one-year loss from three years before the loss to 15 years into the future.
I don’t usually share personal stuff with you, but I will admit I haven’t lost $916 million total. Lifetime.
So, we have to give Trump some credit for having the audacity to (a) invest enough in one year to lose $916 million and (b) make the rest of us pay for his mistake.
I took one accounting class in college, so I will not pretend to know any more than I read in Sunday’s papers about how this works. But here’s what I do know: Regular people don’t legally avoid paying federal income taxes for 18 years.
The irony is: This is exactly the kind of thing that has work-a-day Americans so angry. …
For the Trump campaign it doesn’t matter that this billion-dollar-write-off is legal. What it demonstrates is that there is one set of rules for the richest Americans and a completely different set of rules for the rest of us.
For most of us, the only time we think about income taxes is on April 15 when we file our tax forms. Since 1943, when Congress passed the “Current Tax Withholding Act” to provide a constant stream of revenue to pay for World War II, most of us never see the money. …
Unless you are Donald Trump or any one of a small number of mega-developers for whom income taxes are just another piece on their personal financial chessboard to be sacrificed in search of every last penny of personal profit.
It is particularly ironic that in an election with the aforementioned hatred of the 1 percent, we have a pair of 1-percenters who are the major parties’ presidential candidates. Trump earned his money (well, with the help of a “small” loan from his millionaire father), whereas it is remarkable how the Clintons were able to amass an eight-figure fortune out of working in government, isn’t it?
Trump has his defenders, including Breitbart:
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended Trump on Sunday, telling NBC News’ Meet the Press that Trump was a “genius” in business who was simply doing what the tax code allows every American to do by counting losses against tax liabilities, and bouncing back from failure to success.
That would include the New York Times — which, however, is still struggling.
As Jazz Shaw of HotAir.com notes, the Times — or whoever was its source — likely obtained Trump’s tax document illegally.
The ongoing IRS scandal, in which the federal government targeted conservative organizations, involved several cases in which the agency illegally shared taxpayer information with other branches of government, and in one case leaked taxpayer information to a conservative organization’s political opponents.
In 2008, the confidential tax information of Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, who emerged as a critic of then-Sen. Barack Obama, was leaked illegally by an Ohio state official.
It should be pointed out that a business’ not paying taxes because it didn’t make any money in that year is not uncommon. For instance, according to Forbes, The New York Times Co., one of the biggest media companies in the world, paid no corporate income taxes in 2014. Indeed, it has been a longtime tax strategy to use losses in some businesses to offset profits (and therefore corporate income taxes) in other businesses under the same ownership. That too is legal.
Speaking of the Times, the Washington Post reports:
Dean Baquet wasn’t bluffing.
The New York Times executive editor said during a visit to Harvard in September that he would risk jail to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns. He made good on his word Saturday night when the Times published Trump tax documents from 1995, which show the Republican presidential nominee claimed losses of $916 million that year — enough to avoid paying federal income taxes for as many as 18 years afterward.
Federal law makes it illegal to publish an unauthorized tax return:
It shall be unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)) is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information. Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
Baquet said during a panel discussion at Harvard that if the Times’ lawyers advised him not to publish Trump tax returns, he would argue that such information is vital to the public interest because the real estate mogul’s “whole campaign is built on his success as a businessman and his wealth.” …
The Washington Post’s Justin Wm. Moyer and Lisa Rein recently wrote about the strengths and weaknesses of the kind of defense suggested by Baquet:
First Amendment experts note that while the media could be prosecuted for publishing Trump’s tax returns, a news organization could also assert a First Amendment defense. In the case of the Pentagon Papers, for example, The Post argued that publication served an important public interest.
But those arguments would not be sure winners, experts said. And members of the media would need to consider risks to their sources in any investigation of who shared Trump’s tax information.
“The courts could say, if the public thinks the tax returns are so important, let it demand that the candidate authorize the IRS to release them on pain of losing votes,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a privacy expert and professor at Harvard Law School.
The Times appears not to know who its source is; the tax documents were mailed anonymously. Jack Mitnick, listed as the preparer of Trump’s New Jersey return, verified that document’s authenticity.
Through an attorney, the famously litigious Trump already has threatened “prompt initiation of appropriate legal action” against the Times.
Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward, who joined Baquet on the Harvard panel and also said he would risk jail to publish Trump’s tax returns, joked during the talk that in the event of a criminal conviction, perhaps everyone in the newsroom could serve one day of the sentence.
Neither Baquet nor anyone else will serve one second of jail time. The thought that the Obama Justice Department would prosecute anyone for illegally obtaining a Republican’s tax records is as ludicrous as assuming that the Milwaukee County district attorney prosecutes murders and gun crimes.
Unfortunately, most voters are not business-savvy enough to grasp the difference between tax avoidance (legally reducing your tax bill, including, yes, to zero) and tax evasion (illegally reducing your tax bills, which gets you a visit from the feds). The Clintons know the difference, as proven by the existence of the Clinton Foundation. Trump reportedly employs 22,000 people, but I’m sure few people will grant him that.
Facebook Friend Gary Probst adds:
Here’s the difference between working in a controlled, safe, no-accountability, socialist government job and being in business.
Any farmer can tell you there are times when they pay no taxes because of losses or investment needs for equipment. Any real estate developer can tell you the same. … It’s called reinvestment and it has to do with building things. This is how the laws are structured, so people in business can survive the onslaught of government regulations and taxation and still have some capital to grow.
The liberals, mostly government workers, will flip out on this. They don’t understand anything but carrying their little brown bag into the office, sitting at a desk, shuffling the same papers, pontificating down to people who take risk in life to try and build things and acting like smug asses when a bureaucratic rule is broken. They produce … nothing. They take … everything.
Do NOT let libs beat up Trump over this. It is legal and designed to help in real estate development, so the nation grows. There are plenty of things to be upset with Trump over. This is not one of them:Will this hurt Trump on Election Day? I bet it won’t, because the Trump supporters will vote for him under any circumstances, including the legitimate reason of keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House. (However, they will fail.)