Trump, allies move to contain tax avoidance story

 Donald Trump/   Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

Donald Trump/ Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

Donald Trump and his allies yesterday scrambled to contain the fallout from a stunning New York Times story that suggested the Republican presidential nominee may have avoided paying federal taxes for years, arguing that it proves Trump is best qualified to fix the tax system.

“There’s no one who has shown more genius in their way to maneuver around the tax code and rightfully use the laws to do that,” New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie said on Fox News Sunday. “And he’s already promised in his tax plan to change many of these special interest loopholes and get rid of them, so you don’t have this kind of situation.”

Trump himself, in a tweet yesterday morning, said: “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.”

The damage control came as the Times reported that, based on a tax document it obtained, Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income – a deduction so large it would have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income taxes for 18 years.

The Hillary Clinton campaign and other Democrats pounced on the story, saying that Trump has refused to release his tax returns because they would show he hasn’t paid any federal taxes in some years.

“This bombshell report reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump’s past business failures and just how long he may have avoided paying any federal income taxes whatsoever,” said a statement from the Clinton campaign.

Former Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, said the Trump tax story underscores the unfairness of the system. While the “rich are getting richer” and most other people are “getting poorer,” Sanders told ABC’s This Week. “Billionaires like Donald Trump are able to manipulate the tax system so that they avoid paying federal income tax.”

Trump and his surrogates, meanwhile, tried yesterday to turn the story into an asset, saying that reports he avoided paying taxes for years prove his business acumen and deep knowledge of the tax system.

“He’s a genius at how to take advantage of legal remedies that can help your company survive and grow,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on ABC’s This Week.  “I want a man who’s a genius at figuring out how to take this country, that’s moving in the wrong direction.”

Christie told Fox News Sunday that it was a “very, very good story” for Trump, citing the losses he took during the 1990s. “He fought and clawed back to build another fortune, to create tens of thousands of more jobs,” Christie said of the Republican candidate.

Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns – as every presidential nominee has since the 1970s – has been a constant source of criticism from Democratic rival, Clinton and her allies.

The New York businessman says he doesn’t want to release his returns because they are under audit.In its story, the Times said it hired tax experts who reported that “rules that are especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.”

The Times added: “Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years.”In its statement, the Clinton campaign said it appears that Trump got to avoid paying federal taxes at times when “millions of working families” paid up.

“He calls that ‘smart,” the campaign said “Now that the gig is up, why doesn’t he go ahead and release his returns to show us all how ‘smart’ he really is?”

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