Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Business

PolitiFact: Trump has indeed paid taxes, contrary to Clinton's contention

The statement

"The only two (Donald Trump tax returns) we have show that he hasn't paid a penny in taxes."

Hillary Clinton, May 22 on NBC's Meet the Press

The ruling

Clinton has one thing correct here — public records do indicate that there were two years in the 1970s when Trump paid nothing in federal taxes. But she got a few key points wrong. Namely, the same public records show three other years in which Trump did pay federal income taxes. Also, the public records Clinton referred to are not Trump's actual tax returns.

When we checked with the Clinton campaign, we were referred to a Washington Post story headlined, "Trump once revealed his income tax returns. They showed he didn't pay a cent." The source for the story is a document uncovered and posted online by the Washington Post's Fact Checker Glenn Kessler. He used it to show that, contrary to Trump's claim that "there's nothing to learn" from his tax returns, the returns can reveal a great deal about a presidential candidate. Kessler gave Trump's statement that there was "nothing to learn" four Pinocchios.

The key document relevant to Clinton's statement is a 1981 report by New Jersey gambling regulators analyzing Trump's finances as part of his efforts to get a casino license for a proposed casino-hotel complex. Page 33 reports on Trump's income and federal tax payments for 1975 through 1979.

The report says that Trump did, in fact, pay federal taxes for three of those five years, a fact omitted in the Washington Post headline and story. It does not include the actual returns.

The report says Trump paid no federal income tax in 1978 and 1979 because, according to the tax rules, he lost money.

Here's the rundown on Trump's taxes. For perspective, we've also listed the amounts in 2016 dollars.

YearIncomeFederal taxIncome (in current dollars)Federal tax (in current dollars)
1975$76,210$18,714$338,923$83,225
1976$24,594$10,832$103,416$45,548
1977$118,530$42,386$467,980$167,348
1978$406,379 loss$0$1,491,268 loss$0
1979$3,443,560 loss$0$11,348,617 loss$0
YearIncomeFederal taxIncome (in current dollars)Federal tax (in current dollars)
1975$76,210$18,714$338,923$83,225
1976$24,594$10,832$103,416$45,548
1977$118,530$42,386$467,980$167,348
1978$406,379 loss$0$1,491,268 loss$0
1979$3,443,560 loss$0$11,348,617 loss$0
New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement, which verified his income, losses and deductions, said Trump's losses came from the operation of his various properties.

But the report reveals no specifics, so the details of his tax returns for those years remain a mystery.

Trump has made it clear in interviews and debates that he works aggressively to pay as little in taxes as possible.

We contacted Trump's campaign and didn't hear back.

We don't know a lot about Trump's tax situation, a fact exacerbated by his unwillingness to release his full tax returns.

Public records show that Trump did not pay federal income taxes in two years — 1978 and 1979 — which is what Clinton was referencing. But the same records include information from three other years — 1975, 1976, and 1977 — when Trump did pay federal income taxes.

The records we have are not full tax returns, which makes learning more about those years (or any others) difficult.

Clinton's statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

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