Report on Trump’s taxes raises questions about businessman image

The New York Times reported that President Trump paid only $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017, but the president insisted that the report is not accurate and that he pays “a lot.”
5:42 | 09/28/20

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Transcript for Report on Trump’s taxes raises questions about businessman image
Good evening and it's great to start another week with all of you at home. And we didn't tonight with that bombshell report on president trump and his taxes. The election just 36 days away now, and this is the most extensive reporting yet on the matter. Reporters at "The New York Times" have examined 18 years of president trump's taxes. 11 of those years, they report president trump paid no federal income taxes at all. The year he won the white house, he paid $750 in federal income taxes. The same the following year. That's the same amount an American worker earning $20,000 a year pays in federal income taxes. "The times" points to the 11 years trumpaid no taxes at all. And "The times" reporting that the president is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. More than $420 million in debt, that could come due over the next four years if he's elected, leaving the questions, who is that money owed to? And all of this just 24 hours before the face-to-face debate between president trump and Joe here's our chief white house correspondent Jonathan Karl leading us off tonight. Reporter: On the eve of the first presidential debate, the American public is getting what's been described as the first detailed look at one of Donald Trump's most closely guarded secrets -- his tax returns. In its blockbuster report, "The New York Times" reviewed detailed information on nearly two decades worth of trump tax returns. The details are startling. Trump paid no federal income taxes at all in 11 of the 18 years they reviewed. In 2016, the year he won the white house, trump reportedly only paid $750. For his first year in office, he again paid just $750. $750 is roughly the federal income tax bill of someone who makes $20,000 a year. At the white house, the president insisted "The times" report was not accurate. Well, first of all, I've paid a lot. And I've paid a lot of state income taxes, too. Reporter: But state and federal income taxes are two different things. The president built his brand and his campaign on being a business genius with a midas touch. I made a lot of money. I've had great success. By the way, really successful. Reporter: But "The times" reports the trump businesses, including his golf courses and resorts, are actually awash in red inning. His Washington hotel reportedly lost $55.5 million since it opened four years ago. His foreign ventures, according to "The time," are among the few that have actually made money since he became president. More than $73 million. Some of the most profitable in countries with authoritarian leaders, including the Philippines and Turkey. When trump ran for president the first time, he insisted he was loaded with money and had almost no debt whatsoever. Anybody. I don't need debt. You know, it's very interesting. I'm so liquid, I don't need debt. And if I need debt -- Reporter: But "The times" reports the president is actually drowning in debt, including more than $421 million that could come due over the next four years. The paper noting that if trump is re-elected, "His lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president." Today, the president tweeted he has "Very little debt compared to the value of assets." He has repeatedly said his tax returns are under irs audit. It's under audit. They've been under audit for a long time. The irs does not treat me well. Reporter: The newspaper reports the irs is in fact investigating a $72.9 million tax refund the president received in 2010 and whether he took improper deductions. "The times" found trump took tax deductions for money spent on his lavish lifestyle, including $70,000 on hairdressers during his time on "Theapprentice" and more than $95,000 for Ivanka Trump's makeup artist. The president says he is "Entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation and tax credits." He has long refused to turn over his tax returns, but he's also bragged about his ability to avoid paying taxes. The only years that anybody's ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax. So -- That makes me smart. If he's paid zero, that means zero for troops. Reporter: The Biden campaign points out that most voters do pay taxes, releasing an ad today highlighting working class people who have paid more federal income tax than the self-described billionaire in the white house. All right, so, let's get right to Jon Karl, live in Cleveland, the site of the debate tonight, and Jon, we will all press the president on the taxes. Four years ago, I asked then candidate Donald Trump when he would release them, he said what he said to so many reporters, after the audit. But he told me, I went back to the transcript, he said, you kn, I don't think it's a big he said, I think people don't care. And Jon, I'm curious. Four years later, that remains the central question, will some undecided voters care now with this new reporting? Reporter: Well, David, the Biden campaign has unveiled a tax calculator today where you can compare how much you pay in taxes with how much Donald Trump paid. And you can be sure Biden is going to make this a central issue that he hits in the debate tomorrow night. They sure believe that this is an issue that really hits home, an issue of fundamental fairness. And you can hear the rain behind you in Cleveland. That debate tomorrow night. Jon car, thank you. We'll see you tomorrow night, as

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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