• The New York Times and Trump’s Taxes: Another Marker on the End of Journalism

    October 3, 2016

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    Posted in: Iraq

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    I don’t support Trump. I don’t support Clinton. But what I really don’t support is shoddy journalism, and that’s what is all awhirl regarding the leak of three pages of Trumps’ federal tax return from 21 years ago.



    Trump the Tax Cheat?

    The New York Times is running front-page amok (italics added here) with the exclusive that Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial, the writers claim, it could have allowed him to avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.

    The Times continues “Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years… [the loss] could have eliminated any federal income taxes… for each episode of The Apprentice, or the roughly $45 million he was paid between 1995 and 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos.”



    How To Do Journalism With No Information

    Let’s pause for a moment: all the Times has is three pages of Trump’s lengthy tax filing from 1995. None of the schedules are there, nothing that details the profits and losses. Everything the Times writes otherwise is speculation, extrapolation, and that word, “could,” over and over.

    The newspaper even uncorks a statement that would get any undergrad booted out of her first journalism class “In the absence of any disclosures from Mr. Trump, The New York Times and other news outlets have attempted to fill in the gaps.”

    Pro-Clinton Vox takes it another step, stating without any evidence “Trump still isn’t releasing his returns. And here’s what that means: whatever is in his returns is worse than what the New York Times is telling the world is in his returns. The Trump campaign has decided it prefers the picture the Times is painting — a picture where Trump didn’t pay taxes for 18 years — to the picture Trump’s real records would paint.”

    Summary: in the absence of information, 2016-era journalists can just make up whatever they like.



    How Taxes Work for Grownups

    But all that aside, let’s go back to the shoddy journalism.

    For all of the Times’ hyperbole, it seems to miss, or just not bother to state, the obvious: what Trump did, deduct business losses from gains to reduce his tax burden, and likely spread those losses over a period of years, is exactly what every business does. In fact, the tax forms even give you little boxes to insert those numbers in to take the deduction.

    There is literally nothing to see here.

    I know of no person who actively seeks to maximize the taxes s/he pays.

    Instead, every taxpayer does what the tax laws intend, take deductions to lessen the amount they pay in taxes. I do it, you do it, the Clintons do it. There are the business loss deductions, the capital loss deductions, the business expense deductions, the mortgage interest deductions and on and on and on. If you follow the tax law, then the amount at the end of the return is what your “fair share” is.

    Even the Times’ story has to sorta, kinda admit that, assuming you make it deep into the text, that “Tax experts consulted by The Times said nothing in the 1995 documents suggested any wrongdoing by Mr. Trump.”

    That line seems significant, especially given what came before it on the front page.

    And yep, most of these deductions are only available to the rich, at least in dollar amounts that matter. We can argue separately how messed up the tax system is (a subject the Times may consider covering at some point), but we cannot argue that what Trump did is not the way the system is. Neither can Clinton.

    But the funnest of fun parts here is while the Times, and Clinton, reluctantly point out that nothing Trump did was illegal, they both make it clear they think what he did was ethically wrong, a bad thing worthy of slinging around. Given the parallels to the emails (not illegal!) and the Clinton Foundation (not illegal!), that seems thin ice to skate on.

    BONUS: Coincidentally, it was only at last Monday’s presidential debate that Hillary Clinton said Trump was refusing to release his tax returns so voters would not know “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.” Then, what do you know, a few days later an excerpt of those returns just pops into the New York Times’ Inbox. Small world.



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    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • teri said...

      1

      Sigh. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again: as a bookkeeper in an accounting office, I can tell you that we’d never recommend a client release his tax returns to third party perusal while undergoing an audit. It would mean he would be releasing information that might be altered or amended during the audit process and then he’d have to release the IRS-corrected return later and explain the changes that were made. For Trump, this means that not only would the entire public be looking at the original return, but also poring over the amended one and making comparisons between the two and trying to second-guess (from afar) why the IRS made changes. As the Times article you are writing about here makes clear, you’d have to be a knowledgeable CPA to figure out why any particular alterations might have been made during audit, and even if you are such a person, you still might not be able to figure out the reasoning unless you were the CPA sitting in on the audit.

      So Trump’s accountant made use of the tax laws to give him a huge rich-man’s advantage….that’s what he is paid to do. If Clinton’s accountant didn’t do the same, s/he’d be fired. The tax laws need to be changed so such things aren’t so easily exploited by the wealthy. Period. Between federal and state taxes, I pay about 18% in taxes on my [seriously] measly-ass wages. FICA/Medicare takes another 7 1/2%.

      But here’s some fun stuff to add as a bonus feature:
      Remember Timothy (Timmeh) Geithner, Obama’s first Treasury Secretary, getting caught cheating on his taxes? Came out in his confirmation hearings. And he wasn’t attempting to exploit some loopholes – he just didn’t report his earnings from working for the IMF, which were hefty, and hoped the IRS wouldn’t notice. Obama’s first Treas. Sec. was a common tax cheat. And he got confirmed anyway.

      And Clinton; how do we know what she earned for those Goldman-Sachs speeches? We know what she EARNED, even if we’ll never know what she SAID in those speeches, because she tried to claim the payments were “donations” to the Clinton Foundation. The IRS caught this when reviewing the Foundation tax returns and told her that this sort of emolument was obviously personal income (duh) and had to be declared on her personal tax return. The Clintons had to amend several years’ worth of Foundation returns, and presumably the personal returns as well, and pay the back taxes owed. The media reported on this little “oversight” of the Clintons last year, which is how her Goldman-Sachs speeches came into discussion during the primaries, but won’t touch the subject now.

      And the latest return she released shows that she and Bill significantly lowered their tax burden by donating millions to a “charity” – the Clinton Foundation. If I tried that shit, I’d be in tax court in a hot second.

      10/3/16 5:46 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      2

      Businessman becomes POTUS candidate on a platform of prior business experience with claims only “he” can manage the USG like a business.

      Word leaks said master businessman has business LOSSES close to $1 BILLION in ONE year.

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…HOHOHOHOHOHOHO..HEEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE… HAHAHAHAHAHA….

      Meanwhile, half the DCOTP thinks he’s a genius. The other half thinks …hey.. it’s ok. Anyone would do it if they could. After all..it was legal. Next issue?

      Meanwhile the 800lb gorilla is rolling on the floor in gut splitting laughter.

      10/3/16 7:31 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      3

      teri said
      “The tax laws need to be changed so such things aren’t so easily exploited by the wealthy. Period. Between federal and state taxes, I pay about 18% in taxes on my [seriously] measly-ass wages. FICA/Medicare takes another 7 1/2%.”

      Meanwhile, the DCOTP can’t see the 800lb gorilla of their own loss in terms of today’s wages inflation adjusted, vs 10 yrs ago. Collectively, in one year it makes Trumps “loss” look like pocket change.

      This country SHOULD be armed and ready to burn WDC down. Instead.. it looks to a lying sociopath criminal and a lying war monger for… ahem.. make Murika great again change. Hahahahaha.. hohohohohohoh… hahahahahaha.

      The Dumbest Country on the Planet is a massive, fucking understatement. It proves beyond a shadow of doubt daily.. you can’t cure stupid.

      10/3/16 7:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      4

      If Donald would just admit that we are all fools for paying taxes for illegal wars, he would get my vote.

      10/3/16 7:59 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      5

      In the “OMG, how’d I miss this?” category:

      The Sanders’ voters who are bringing a class-action lawsuit against the DNC for unfair bias and election fraud have gotten a rebuttal from the DNC lawyers: the DNC has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on the “fact” that the Sanders’ supporters and donors “knew all along that the DNC was corrupt” and therefore cannot sue. Ipso facto, ad hominem, e pluribus unum, non disturbarum illegitamus, mea culpa, mea maximus culpa, amen.

      See:
      http://yournewswire.com/democratic-party-attorneys-admit-dnc-is-corrupt/

      and:
      http://lawnewz.com/high-profile/dnc-files-scathing-rebuttal-wants-fraud-lawsuit-filed-by-bernie-backers-thrown-out/

      And here we have the start of a whole new meme; the Clinton Defense. “Everyone knew all along the Foundation was pay-to-play. You can’t impeach me over it now!” “The voters knew all along I was lying about the TPP. They can’t accuse me of bait and switch now that I am signing it into law.” “Everyone knows that Bill and I offered Lynch and Comey some juicy positions in exchange for not indicting me on the email thing. What did you think that meeting on the tarmac was for? You can’t call it corruption now, when you knew what we were doing when we did it right in front of your stupid faces and you didn’t call it corruption then!”

      We can have a growth cottage industry of lawyers working for people who need to use the Clinton Defense. People who feel they shouldn’t be sued for vehicular manslaughter because everyone could see they were bad drivers. People who shouldn’t go to jail for peeping tom charges because it should have been obvious to everyone in the neighborhood that they were a tad on the freaky side. Etc.

      I’m having some trouble with this defense from the DNC – you can’t sue us for corruption because everyone knows we were corrupt anyway. God, life is a wonderment, ain’t it?

      10/3/16 8:07 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      While the corporate (read: Wall Street War Party) media is playing Trump’s tax card, the Dems are underestimating Hillarious has a bad hand that is turning off voters. The majority of Americans may not want Trump, but how many will bother to vote?

      10/3/16 8:24 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      7

      Bauer- Hillary could “win” witjh a landslide victory of 18% of the US population over 21 supporting her. She would declare that a mandate and get to work as America’s first czarina. My guess is that maybe only 35% of registered voters will vote.

      10/3/16 9:27 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      8

      On Bill’s “infidelity” which Trump may focus on. My guess is that there was a marriage vow. He could have his dalliances and she could have her girl gals on the side. Pretty fair I say. It kept them out of divorce court!

      10/3/16 9:29 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      9

      Side issue: The military tells you to state only the info on your dog tag if captured. The railroad workers union tells its engineers to state only that they have amnesia after a crash.
      Life can be uncomplicated if one just follows the orders of one’s superiors.

      10/3/16 9:38 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      10

      A country that does not give a damn that its government screws millions of people everyday should not care who its presidense is screwing.

      10/3/16 10:25 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...

      11

      “I’m with Her” …Jill Stein !

      10/3/16 11:02 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      12

      Chuck,

      Stein for me, too.

      10/3/16 4:27 PM | Comment Link

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