Tax returns from ’80s and ’90s reveal Trump lost over $1 billion in business deals
Donald Trump reported $1.17 billion in financial losses to the IRS between 1985 and 1994, a massive run of red ink that kept him from paying income taxes during most of that period, according to a report published late Tuesday in The New York Times.
The Times said it had documented those losses by obtaining official IRS tax transcripts for those years, showing the figures Trump reported on his IRS Form 1040 returns. The scope of those losses was such that, “year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer,” The Times said.
The Times report comes a day after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would not comply with a request from a House committee to turn over copies of more recent Trump tax returns. A 1924 law gives Congress the explicit power to request such returns, but Mnuchin said lawmakers’ request lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose,” a stance that is expected to be challenged in court.
The White House and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent Tuesday evening. The Times said a private attorney for the president, Charles Harder, had called its report “demonstrably false,” but he had not cited any specific errors.
Until now, Trump’s early career in real estate was believed to have reached a peak in the late 1980s, when Trump wrote “The Art of the Deal” — and then collapsed into loss and debt in 1990 and 1991.
The Times story shows, however, that Trump’s losses began earlier. In 1985, the future president reported $46.1 million in losses from his casinos, hotels and other businesses, according to the report.
Those losses got worse in 1990 and 1991, as Trump’s big bets on casinos, hotels and an airline all went bad.
Trump reported $517.6 million in combined losses during those years, The Times said. Because of his losses, The Times said that Trump had not been required to pay income taxes for eight of the 10 years it examined.
Trump’s most profitable business during this period, The Times reported, was not in real estate but in the stock market. As The Times described it, Trump would buy stock in a company, then make public statements that indicated he was contemplating a hostile takeover of that company. The publicity would make the stock price rise, and then Trump — rather than buying more shares to make good on his takeover threat — would sell his stocks at a profit.
That sort of faux takeover talk earned Trump $57 million by 1988, The Times reported. But eventually, investors stopped falling for it: When Trump bought stock in American Airlines and talked about a takeover, the market didn’t bite. Trump lost $34.9 million on short-term stock trades that year, The Times said.