Back in the late 1970s, around the time Donald J. Trump was proclaiming he was worth more than $200 million, two federal tax returns showed his income as -$3.8 million -- yes, that's a minus sign, not a dash -- meaning Trump was in the hole as for his earnings.
Donald Trump's 2014 taxes, which he's signing in this photo from @realDonaldTrump's Twitter feed, presumably show a lot more income than he reported in the late 1970s. But we don't know for sure.
And that lack of money meant that The Donald didn't owe the Internal Revenue Service any income tax for the 1978 and 1979 tax years.
The filing revelations are from a 1981 New Jersey Gambling Commission report reviewed by The Washington Post.
Trump had to provide New Jersey gambling regulators with his tax returns back in the late 1970s to get approval for an Atlantic City casino license.
Post reporter Drew Harwell writes that the Garden State gambling agency's report "revealed that the wealthy Manhattan investor had for at least two years in the late 1970s taken advantage of a tax-code provision popular with developers that allowed him to report negative income."
Audit or ... : Trump says he's not making his current taxes public because they are under audit. But he could open up older returns, say those for tax years 2002 through 2008.
The IRS closed its audit activity for those years, according to a letter from his attorneys that Trump did release.
These older filings wouldn't provide a current snapshot of Trump's tax situation, but hey could give us an idea of how he files. However, he's given no indication he would reveal any of his returns at all.
Today's report on Trump's late '70s zero, zilch, nada, nil, zip tax bill might be why he's so reluctant to show us anything for any tax year.
Legal, but not looking good: As Harwell points out in the story, "as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Trump regularly denounces corporate executives for using loopholes and false deductions to 'get away with murder' when it comes to avoiding taxes."
If Trump's among those using tax loopholes, like he did almost 40 years ago, to continue to zero out or greatly reduce his tax bills, it puts him in the same category as the rich fat cats he decries.
And that might undercut his appeal among his core supporters.
I say "might" because chances are just as good that the revelation that Trump and his cadre of tax advisers and attorneys are still zeroing out his taxes could make him more popular. The usual political and campaign rules don't seem to apply, so far, to The Donald.
To be fair, using legal tax strategies to get your taxes as low as possible is smart. We all should be doing that.
But Donald J. Trump also knows that appearances (his hair notwithstanding; sorry, cheap shot, but that 'do, really!) count for a lot.
And Trump's aversion to showing us any of his tax returns sure seems to indicate that something in his 1040s wouldn't look quite right.
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