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OPINION

NYT’s Report on Trump’s Stolen Tax Returns Doesn’t Tell the Story Liberals Wanted It To

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file

There is a massive story about President Trump’s tax returns. It’s that someone committed a federal crime — or at the very least violated one of the basic principles of federal tax law and betrayed their professional duty — by providing an American citizen’s tax returns to journalists.

That’s not the story The New York Times wanted to tell — not least because they were passive participants in that crime or ethical breach.

The story the Times wanted to tell is the lie that the liberal media have been telling for four years now: massive, undisclosed ties to Russia, secret payoffs, and backroom deals. You can almost read the disappointment between the lines as The New York Times is forced to admit that it was all a heap of lies. Even with illicit access to confidential documents — we can’t honestly know what it is The New York Times has, let alone whether it’s accurate or authentic, because they aren’t allowing any independent review — the Times came up with yet another nothingburger.

The Times report debunks each of the conspiracy theories about Trump’s taxes, one after another. Shady Michael Cohen payoffs? Nope, “the materials obtained by The Times did not include any itemized payments to Mr. Cohen.” Russia? Nope, “nor do [President Trump’s confidential tax documents] reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.” 

It gets worse for the Times. Whatever information the outlet has also proves, by its own admission, that President Trump was telling the truth all along about why he hasn’t released his returns of his own accord. There’s an ongoing audit over tens of millions of dollars of deductions he claimed, which is still being disputed. That dispute belongs in private, in the tax courts, not before the public where every shred of information would immediately become a politicized mess. If he loses in the audit, the president will pay the money in question and any attendant penalties. That’s how taxes work. It’s also exactly what the president has said all along, even as the liberal media mocked him over it.

Disappointed that they didn’t get to write the story they wanted to — a thrilling spy novel with Russians and salacious sex stories — the Times reporters invented a new one: President Trump only paid $750 in federal income tax in certain years.

That should be a huge story, shouldn’t it? Maybe it would be, if President Trump hadn’t explicitly said that was the case four years ago on national television. Really, millions of people watched! Hillary Clinton was there, right on stage with him. Even The New York Times reported on it.

President Trump’s businesses suffered losses. He wrote them off, allowing him to use provisions in the tax code to avoid some taxes on the revenue those businesses later earned. No one cared then and no one cares now, because it simply isn’t a big story. Writing off losses to offset earnings is not a crime. It’s how taxes work.

More importantly, the implication that President Trump somehow does not pay taxes is patently false. The Trump Organization told the Times exactly that.

Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy. His companies have paid more than $100 million over the same time in corporate tax, sales tax, employment tax, and property tax.

Donald Trump’s businesses are often high-risk endeavors that involve spending millions of dollars on properties that in some cases become essentially worthless. When that happens, like any responsible businessman, he records the legitimate losses from nonfunctional properties that produce zero jobs and taxes to the communities in which they are located and uses the difference to invest in properties that are productive and do provide jobs.

Again, this is not a bombshell; it’s just how taxes work. By virtue of how much money his businesses have made, the president has paid untold millions of dollars in taxes. Billionaires — liberal and conservative — as well as many public companies and their CEOs, often pay little federal tax in any given year. President Trump is different in only one respect: unlike most billionaires, he signed tax reforms that reduced the number of deductions available to wealthy people in order to allow middle-income Americans to enjoy lower income tax rates. That’s a story the Times should write about some time, instead of violating tax privacy to chase down wild conspiracy theories.

Julio Gonzalez founded Engineered Tax Services.

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