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Trump defends "tax shelter" practice after report that his businesses lost millions

Report: Trump tax docs show $1B in losses
Report: Trump tax docs show over $1 billion in losses from 1985 to 1994 05:10

President Trump is defending the practice of using tax shelters as a "sport," after the New York Times released a massive report detailing how he lost roughly $1 billion over a decade in the 1980s and 1990s, more than nearly any other American over that timer period. 

The president — who prides himself on being a dealmaker and businessman and authored the "Art of the Deal" during that same time period — took to Twitter to defend his reported massive losses while also claiming the information the Times reported was a "highly inaccurate Fake News hit job." The president's personal attorney cited in the Times' story could not cite a single specific data point the Times got wrong. 

"Real estate developers in the 1980's & 1990's, more than 30 years ago, were entitled to massive write-offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases," Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "Much was non monetary. Sometimes considered 'tax shelter,' ... you would get it by building, or even buying. You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes....almost all real estate developers did - and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport. Additionally, the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!"

The Times said it did not obtain Mr. Trump's actual returns but "received the information contained in the returns from someone who had legal access to it" and cross-referenced the data with publicly available IRS records. Citing printouts from the president's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax transcripts obtained by the paper, The Times said Mr. Trump reported approximately $1.17 billion in losses between 1985 and 1994 from his business ventures in casinos, hotels and residential buildings.

The Times said the president reported such a high amount of business losses that he avoided paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years analyzed. In 1991, Mr. Trump accumulated $418 million in losses — which, according to the report, represented 1 percent of all losses declared by U.S. taxpayers that year. "[Y]ear after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners," the Times said.

Mr. Trump made much of his case for being president on his ability to run businesses. But he has declined to hand over any of his tax returns, claiming he is still under audit. The Treasury Department this week refused to hand the president's last six years' worth of tax returns over to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, claiming the Justice Department would provide further explanation later. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal said he is speaking with lawyers to determine what to do next. 

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