Working from IRS transcripts, two New York Times writers have stacked up verifiable evidence that Donald J. Trump, colorful businessman, lost a total of $1.17 billion during the 1985 to 1994 decade.
Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig wrote that by the time his master-of-the-universe memoir “Trump: The Art of the Deal” arrived in bookstores in 1987, he was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals.
The data — printouts from Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts — “represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view,” the pair wrote.
The newspaper published the story in its Wednesday edition, available online on Tuesday.
“Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying taxes for eight of the 10 years. … Trump built a business licensing his name, became a television celebrity and ran for the White House by branding himself a self-made billionaire,” the reporters wrote.
“Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, the Times found when it compared results with detailed information the IRS compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners,” the journalists wrote.
On May 4, a lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, wrote that the tax information was “demonstrably false” and that the paper’s statements “about the president’s tax returns and business from 30 years ago are highly inaccurate.” He cited no specific errors, but on Tuesday, added that “IRS transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate” and “would not be able to provide a reasonable picture of any taxpayer’s return.”
The reporters explained that “While the Times did not obtain the president’s actual tax returns, it received the information contained in the returns from someone who had legal access to it. The Times was then able to find matching results in the IRS information on top earners — a publicly available database that each year comprises a one-third sampling of those taxpayers, with identifying details removed.”
The tax information does not answer questions raised by House Democrats in their pursuit of the last six years of Trump’s tax returns about his recent business dealings and possible foreign sources of financing and influence. Nor does it offer a fundamentally new narrative of his picaresque career.
The reporters also wrote “Trump’s primary sources of income changed year after year, from big stock earnings, to a single year of more than $67.1 million in salary, to a mysterious $52.9 million windfall in interest income.”
In 1986, Trump bought out his partners in Trump Tower and the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. He bought an apartment building in West Palm Beach for $43 million. His business losses for the year: $68.7 million.
About two weeks before the stock market crash of Oct. 19, 1987, he spent $29 million on a 282-foot yacht. Months later, he bought the Plaza Hotel for $407 million. He recorded $42.2 million in core business losses for 1987, and $30.4 million for 1988.
In 1989, he bought a shuttle operation from Eastern Airlines for $365 million. It never made a profit and Trump would soon pump in more than $7 million of his dwindling cash to keep it airborne, New Jersey casino regulators, who closely monitored his finances in those years, found.
Then came the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, which opened in April 1990, saddled with more than $800 million in debt, most at very high interest rates. It did not generate enough revenue to cover that debt, and sucked revenue from his other casinos, Trump’s Castle and Trump Plaza, pulling them deep into the red.
After years of journalists seeking to obtain verifiable information on Trump’s finances, the NY Times story provides significant data for at least one decade.