Donald Trump may have legally avoided paying federal income taxes for as long as 18 years because of a $916 million loss he declared on his 1995 tax returns from his failed business dealings, The New York Times reports.
"He has a vast benefit from his destruction" in the early 1990s, Joel Rosenfeld, an assistant real estate professor at New York University, told the Times.
He said that he would offer this advice to a client with a return like Trump's from that year: "Do you realize you can create $916 million in income without paying a nickel in taxes?"
Rosenfeld was one of several tax experts the newspaper hired to review three pages of the Republican nominee's returns that the Times said had been mailed to a reporter last month.
The information has never been disclosed publicly.
Trump, who has steadily refused to release his taxes pending the completion of an IRS audit, declined to comment on the report.
But the Trump campaign slammed the publication of the three pages from the nominee's returns — andTrump's lawyer accused the Times of breaking the law because his client did not authorize publication of such information.
And early Sunday, Trump tweeted that he knows "our complex tax laws better than anyone..."
Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, used the Times story to needle Trump about not releasing his tax returns and contending during his first debate with Clinton that not paying federal income taxes would show he was "smart."
Mook said in a statement that Trump apparently avoided paying taxes for two decades "while tens of millions of working families paid theirs. He calls that 'smart.'" Mook added: "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?"
According to the report, Trump's 1995 tax records "reveal the extraordinary tax benefits" that the nominee "derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s."
These include his three bankrupt Atlantic City casinos, the failed Trump Shuttle airline and his "ill-timed" purchase of the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1988 for $407.5 million, the Times reports.
The experts said that regulations giving special advantages to wealthy filers would have allowed Trump to use the $916 million loss in 1995 to cancel out more than $50 million in taxable income over the next 18 years.
The report also cautioned that Trump's "taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown."
"Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required," the campaign said in a statement.
"That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes.
"Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for president and he is the only one that knows how to fix it," the statement continued.
"The only news here is that the more than 20-year-old alleged tax document was illegally obtained."
Marc Kasowitz, a Trump lawyer, told the Times in an emailed letter that publishing the tax records was illegal and threatened "prompt initiation of appropriate legal action."
The report comes after Trump retorted "that makes me smart" when Democrat Hillary Clinton attacked him during Monday's debate, saying he has not paid federal income taxes.
Despite the huge loss, however, nothing in the 1995 returns suggested wrongdoing by the nominee, the experts told the Times, though the amount could have prompted scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service.
"The IRS, when they see a negative $916 million, that has to pop out," Rosenfeld said.
Since 1976, every major party presidential nominee has released tax returns. Clinton has publicly released nearly 40 years' worth, and Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has released 10 years of his tax returns.
But after initially saying that he would make his returns public during the course of his campaign, Trump switched course, citing what he said were years of ongoing IRS audits and the advice of his attorneys to keep them private as those audits proceed.
Former IRS officials have expressed skepticism that anyone would be audited so frequently, and they and other tax experts say there's no prohibition on Trump releasing his returns even if he is.
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