Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Profitable Losses, or How Trump Trimmed His Taxes

President Donald Trump exits after a Rose Garden news conference.

President Donald Trump exits after a Rose Garden news conference.

Photographer: Ken Cedeno/Sipa/Bloomberg 


How does a billionaire pay next to nothing in federal income taxes? The simple answer is by losing money. But a New York Times report on how President Donald Trump has consistently whittled down his tax liability, paying just $750 in 2016 and again in 2017, shows how complicated that approach can be in practice. Many of the tax breaks laid out in the Times’ Sept. 27 story are not only legal but common, raising questions of the fairness of the tax system in general.

That Trump paid just $750 in U.S. income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, paid no income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years, and is in a long-running audit dispute over a refund of $72.8 million, including interest. It said his returns showed he reported losing millions of dollars from his golf courses and has hundreds of millions in debt that will come due in the next few years, on top of the possibility of having to repay that refund if he loses that fight. The documents showed that many of Trump’s businesses are struggling, with him putting more money into the firms than he’s taking out, the report said.