In October 2018, the New York Times released a blockbuster report on how Donald Trump manipulated tax loopholes in the 1990s to borrow at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father Fred Trump’s real-estate empire. Now, the Times provides more clarity as to why Trump had to funnel his father’s money into his business ventures — he was, reportedly, hemorrhaging money for close to a decade.
According to previously unrevealed details from the president’s federal income tax returns, the Times reports that between 1985 and 1994, Trump ate the nearly impossible figure of $1.17 billion in business losses. The worst two years of the period were 1990 and 1991, with $517.6 million in combined losses. (Most of that horrendous financial performance can be blamed on Trump Taj Mahal, which opened its doors in April 1990 with more than $800 million in debt financed at high interest rates.) In 1987, his best year during the losing streak and the year The Art of the Deal was published, Trump lost only $4.5 million. Between 1985 and 1994, “Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years” and he “lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer.”
In April, the White House attempted to get ahead of the Times reporting, issuing a statement claiming that Trump “got massive depreciation and tax shelter because of large-scale construction and subsidized developments.” On Saturday, a lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, added that the tax info was “demonstrably false.” Harder did not cite any specific errors.
But the president’s horrendous business record, as established by tax returns, has been public since 2016, when a copy of his 1995 returns were anonymously mailed to the Times, revealing that Trump had declared losses of $915.7 million. It was a blow so massive that his tax deduction may have allowed him “to legally avoid paying federal income taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars of income for almost two decades,” according to the paper.
Trump was able to lose such staggering amounts of money because most of it was not his, as he was seen to be relying on banks and bond investors to suffer the consequences for him. Another pivotal source of money: his father. As the Times kicker states, “While Donald Trump reported hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for 1990 and 1991, Fred Trump’s returns showed a positive income of $53.9 million, with only one major loss: $15 million invested in his son’s latest apartment project.”