In the wake of a New York Times report over the weekend that appears to show Donald Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax returns and raised questions about how much federal income tax he paid, the Republican presidential nominee on Monday boasted that he has used the country's tax laws "brilliantly."
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"I was able to use the tax laws of this country and my business acumen to dig out of the real estate mess — you would call it a depression — when few others were able to do what I did," Trump said at a campaign rally today in Pueblo, Colorado, citing the slump of the early 1990s.
Trump has drawn fire for refusing to release his federal tax returns and most recently said he will do so only if Hillary Clinton releases her thousands of deleted emails.
Trump argued it has been his "job to minimize the overall tax burden to the greatest extent possible, which allows me to reinvest in neighborhoods, in workers, in building amazing properties, which fuel tremendous growth in their communities and always helps our great provider of jobs, and we always have to help our small businesses."
"I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit and to the benefit of my company, my investors and my employees," he added. "I mean, honestly, I have brilliantly — I have brilliantly used those laws."
"I knew the financial system, I knew the tax code, and most importantly, I knew how to fight. Because that's what you had to do," Trump said. "That was fighting."
He also chastised the press for being "obsessed with an alleged tax filing from the '90s at the end of one of the most brutal economic downturns in our country's history."
The New York Times reported that it acquired three pages of what appear to be Trump's New York and nonresident New Jersey and Connecticut tax returns from 1995 in the mail, with the return address of Trump Tower. The Times said it then verified the authenticity of the tax records.
Trump's team has not disputed the veracity of the 1995 documents but said they were obtained illegally. The campaign also said he has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in other taxes.
The New York Times story asserted that Trump may have avoided paying federal income tax for nearly two decades because of the loss that appears to be declared on the 1995 forms, based on the net operating loss principle, which allows tax adjustments for two years before and 15 years after a loss.
All major party presidential nominees since 1976, including Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, have released their tax returns. Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, has also released his tax returns.