Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016, the year he won the U.S. presidential election, the New York Times wrote in an explosive investigative report late Sunday.
The president, a self-proclaimed billionaire, paid the same amount in 2017, and nothing at all in 10 of the 15 previous years largely because he lost so much more money than he made, the paper reported.
At a news conference held minutes after the newspaper published its report, Mr Trump said it was “fake news” and claimed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “does not treat me well.”
“It will all be revealed, I paid a lot of taxes, I paid a lot of state taxes too. but when you are under audit, you don’t publish them.
“I’m going to release many things and people are going to be shocked,” he told reporters.
The Times has long sought to get hold of Mr Trump’s tax returns but the president has refused to release them, though his predecessors have traditionally done so.
On Sunday the paper said it had got hold of more than two decades’ worth of returns, but that it did not include Trump’s personal returns for 2018 and 2019.
The revelations come just over a month before the U.S. is set to vote in a new presidential election, with polls suggesting Mr Trump is in danger of losing to his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
The Times said its reporting showed that Mr Trump, former star of the reality show “The Apprentice,” had been “more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.”
It also suggested that his financial condition in 2015 lent “some credence to the notion that his long-shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.”
A 2019 investigation by the Times of Mr Trump’s tax returns it managed to get hold of dating from 1985 to 1994 showed the president lost more money than almost any other individual U.S. taxpayer in many years.
In Sunday’s report, the Times said he was “a businessman-president in a tightening financial vice,” with $300 million worth of debt for which he is personally responsible coming due within the next four years.
It said he was increasingly dependent on income from businesses such as his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, that put him in direct, or potential, conflicts of interest with his job as president.
It also said that most of his core businesses, including his golf courses and Washington hotel, reported “losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year.”
In response to the Times investigation, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organisation said that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate.”
He said that over the past decade Trump had paid “tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government” although the Times said he appeared to be conflating personal taxes such as Social Security with income tax.
Despite hopes that the president’s tax records might shed some light on his ingratiating attitude towards Russia, the Times said they revealed nothing about his connections to the country that had not previously been reported.
The paper said it would publish further stories on Trump’s tax records in the coming weeks.