After the New York Times revealed this weekend that Donald Trump declared a federal adjusted gross income of minus $915 million in 1995, Trump exclaimed on Twitter that “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.”
In other words, Trump is acknowledging that there’s something wrong with our tax system, and that he’s exploited it to pay as little in taxes as possible.
Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed John F. Kennedy’s father, Joseph, as the first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission because “it takes a thief to catch a thief,” Trump implies he’ll now use his past expertise in evading taxes to stop others from doing it in the future.
The problem here is that Trump’s own tax plan does nothing to close the loopholes he likely uses.
Of course, there’s no way to know for sure how Trump’s dodged taxes, since he refuses to release his tax returns. And there’s no way to know for sure what Trump’s tax plan is, because has has provided so few details. (The conservative Tax Foundation was so uncertain about what Trump intends that it could only conclude that his scheme would reduce federal revenue by somewhere between $4.4 and $5.9 trillion — a range of $1.5 trillion.)
But it is possible to make educated guesses. We’ll start with how he dodged taxes.