Trump Lost More Than $1 Billion From 1985 to 1994, New York Times Reports

Trump appeared to call massive write-offs "sport" among developers like himself during that period

Melania Trump
Andrew Harnik/AP

President Donald Trump on Wednesday acknowledged taking massive tax write offs for real estate losses topping $1 billion from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, calling it "sport" among developers like himself during that period.

Trump was reacting to a New York Times report Tuesday that his businesses lost more than $1 billion from 1985 to 1994. The newspaper said its reporting was based on printouts it acquired of Trump's official IRS tax transcripts, including figures from his federal tax form.

Trump reported business losses of $46.1 million in 1985, and a total of $1.17 billion in losses for the 10-year period.

The president appeared to defend his actions in a pair of tweets early Wednesday.

"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," Trump tweeted. He contended the reported losses were "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," Trump said.

He claimed the Times report was a "highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!" based on old information.

After comparing Trump's information with that of other "high-income earners," the Times concluded that Trump "appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer."

Other findings from the Times' investigation:  

  • Because of his business losses, the newspaper reported, Trump did not pay income taxes for eight of the 10 years. 
  • He made millions as a corporate raider from buying stocks with borrowed money then suggesting that he would take over a company. He would then sell shares at a profit when the target company's stock rose. Most of those gains were reversed, however, when investors eventually stopped believing Trump would take over the companies, the Times reported. 
  • The Times identified what it called a "mystery" $52.9 million income that Trump reported came from interest in 1989.

The House Ways and Means Committee has asked the IRS to provide Trump's personal and business returns for 2013 through 2018. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday refused to do so, saying the panel's request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose." Mnuchin oversees the IRS.

Mnuchin's move, which had been expected, is likely to set a legal battle into motion. The chief options available to House Democrats are to subpoena the IRS for the returns or to file a lawsuit.

Trump is the first president since Watergate to decline to make his tax returns public.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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