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Trump Zero-Tax Hysteria

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Our society is collapsing, not because of people like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but because many Americans are paralyzed by wealth-envy, ignorance and pettiness.

The New York Times has revealed that Donald Trump posted a $1 billion loss on his 1995 tax return. What I find interesting is that this timing comes just days after Hillary Clinton suggested that Trump pays zero taxes during the first presidential debate. It appears to me that Hillary Clinton ‘teed up the ball’ and The New York Times ‘knocked it out of the park’ for her.

Newsflash: Trump is in the real estate business. In IRS terms, he is an active-participant in real estate. The average American invests in real estate as a passive participant. This means they can only take losses against other income from their real estate investments.

Congress essentially subsidizes real estate developers and participants because of the substantial impact these projects have on our economy. In addition to the $305,000 average cost to build a new home, it also injects over $60,000 into the regional economy (once it closes). Major commercial developments employ thousands of people through the development stages and inject hundreds-of-millions of dollars into the economy.

Trump has paid tens of millions in real estate taxes each year and paid tens of millions in income/payroll taxes on behalf of his employees. Every piece of steel and every brick is subjected to local and state sales taxes. That’s just the beginning of taxes every business pays.

Who do we think writes the check to buy those products, pay property taxes and fund the payroll taxes for employees? Trump.

To suggest that Trump pays no taxes is horribly dishonest or incredibly stupid.

In 1995, he suffered staggering losses due to problems in Trump Casino and Hotels. In total, Trump lost almost approximately $1 billion in his casino investments. He repaid $900 million in personal guarantees to the banks associated with those casinos.

Many in the media have suggested that because of the nearly $1 billion loss on his 1995 return, it is possible that a span of eighteen years passed where Trump paid zero taxes. That year, IRS rules allowed individuals to get a tax refund against the prior three years and use any remaining loss against the following fifteen years of income.

It sickens me that people think this information should weigh on the presidential election. It's also completely hypocritical. Why would any American suggest that it's fair that he pay taxes on all of his net income but not receive the benefit of his losses on investments. Who would actually pay more taxes than they owe?

This hysteria is being driven by wealth-envy and stupidity. I’ve watched hours of coverage and punditry on this issue. I've not heard a single person (including Trump’s surrogates) point to the fact that while he may have escaped (est) $300 million in taxes, he lost nearly $1 billion. Would you rather pay the IRS $300 million and keep $700 million or lose $1 billion? This question echoes the stupidity of this hysteria.

For the last several years, Trump has been earning several hundred million per year in profit. My contention is that his zero tax years were contained to the 1990s not the eighteen years some are inferring.

Trump is heavily invested in the real estate which can be depreciated as a tax deduction. If Trump builds a $100 million building, the IRS allows him to deduct roughly $2.6 million in depreciation each year for the next 39 years. As an example, if he sells that building after forty years for $600 million, he then owes taxes on the entire sales price (with no deduction for the original cost).

The foregoing scenario is precisely why real estate is subsidized in the tax code, by Congress. By allowing an investor like Trump to defer his taxes through depreciation, the IRS stands to gain far more money in the future for the American people.

If the many who are outraged would stop spewing their hate long enough to listen, they’d understand this strategy is a win-win for everyone.

Americans should not be concerned about Trump’s tax strategy and fixated on these petty details. The big picture is that most wealth is created in two areas: ownership of a company (stock or ownership) and real estate. The media, politicians and activists have cultured Americans to despise those two asset classes.

As a result, more and more people are mortgaging their future, avoiding their own financial planning and projecting their own failures onto those who are ultimately succeeding.

My goal is to keep buying real estate, because I long ago learned the lesson that Trump’s ‘petty details’ should now be teaching America. Is there any wonder why so much poverty and failure is resulting from so much ignorance and outrage?

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