The last time Donald Trump’s income-tax returns were made public, the bottom line was striking: He had paid the federal government $0 in income taxes.
The disclosure, in a 1981 report by New Jersey gambling regulators, revealed that the wealthy Manhattan investor had for at least two years in the late 1970s taken advantage of a tax-code provision popular with developers that allowed him to report negative income.
Today, as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Trump regularly denounces corporate executives for using loopholes and “false deductions to “get away with murder” when it comes to avoiding taxes.
“They make a fortune. They pay no tax,” Trump said last year on CBS. “It’s ridiculous, okay?”
The contrast highlights a potentially awkward challenge for Trump.
He has built a political identity around his reputation as a financial whiz, even bragging about his ability to game the tax code to pay as little as possible to the government — a practice he has called the “American way.” Moreover, he has aggressively pursued tax breaks and other government supports to bolster his real estate empire. But that history threatens to collide with his efforts to woo working-class voters who resent that they often pay higher tax rates than the wealthy who benefit from special loopholes.
Trump’s personal taxes are a mystery. He has refused to release any recent returns, meaning the public cannot see how much money he makes, how much he gives to charity and how aggressively he uses deductions, shelters and other tactics to shrink his tax bill.
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