Tax expert fact-check: ‘Trump accounted for 2 cents out of every dollar of business loss’

Updated

In two tweets Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump tried to rebut the New York Times investigative story that showed him losing over $1 billion from 1985 to 1994.

Trump tweeted that in the ‘80s and ‘90s, real estate developers were entitled to massive write offs, and claimed that most real estate developers showed losses for tax purposes. He ended by calling the report a “highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!”



David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist specializing in tax issues, joined MSNBC to react to Trump’s explanation. Johnston is also the author of “The Making of Donald Trump.”

Johnston says Trump’s tweets were only partially correct. “Most large real estate families do not pay income taxes because we have special tax code that allow them to report losses even as they live very lavish lifestyles,” agreed Johnston. “But the size of [Trump’s losses], they are enormous. What Donald doesn’t mention is he bought an airline that he way overpaid for and was losing $7 million a month on until he shut it down and made numerous other awful business deals during the 11 years that were covered by the information that the New York Times got.”

Johnston went on to explain that in today’s money, adjusting for inflation, Trump lost nearly $2 billion. He also put the numbers into perspective to show how much Trump was losing: “One of the years in question, Trump accounted for nearly 2 cents out of every dollar of business loss reported in the entire United States … That’s the really astonishing number.”

MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, 5/8/19, 10:25 AM ET

NYT: Trump taxes show over $1B in losses

The New York Times is reporting stunning details of businessman’s Donald Trump’s taxes from the 80s and 90s – that he lost over $1 billion. Pulitzer prize winning tax expert David Cay Johnston joins Chris Jansing to break down whether these losses are
The New York Times is reporting stunning details of businessman’s Donald Trump’s taxes from the 80s and 90s – that he lost over $1 billion. Pulitzer prize winning tax expert David Cay Johnston joins Chris Jansing to break down whether these losses are

The myth of Donald Trump as the ‘modern Midas,’ who everything he touches turns to gold, was killed with the release of the New York Times’ report, Johnston continued.

“Those of us who followed Trump and paid attention to his finances for years have always known that he was a fraud, but the scale of it is much larger than we thought,” Johnston said.

The last part of Trump’s tweet claims that the information was “fake news.” Johnston points out that the information comes from IRS tax transcripts and according to the New York Times statement, the transcripts came from someone in legal possession of the documents.

“This is 100 percent reliable information, and the Times said it even checked it against some Fred Trump tax returns they have, where the numbers should match. And they match dollar for dollar,” Johnston said.