Breaking October Surprise: New York Times Obtains Trump Tax Records

The October surprise came early this year, didn’t it? The headline at the New York Times reads: “Trump Tax Records Obtained by The Times Reveal He Could Have Avoided Paying Taxes for Nearly Two Decades.”

Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.

The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.

According to the accountant who prepared them, they look legit:

On Wednesday, The Times presented the tax documents to Jack Mitnick, a lawyer and certified public accountant who handled Mr. Trump’s tax matters for more than 30 years, until 1996. Mr. Mitnick was listed as the preparer on the New Jersey tax form.

Mr. Mitnick, 80, now semiretired and living in Florida, said that while he no longer had access to Mr. Trump’s original returns, the documents appeared to be authentic copies of portions of Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax returns. Mr. Mitnick said the signature on the tax preparer line of the New Jersey tax form was his, and he readily explained an obvious anomaly in the way especially large numbers appeared on the New York tax document.

A flaw in the tax software program he used at the time prevented him from being able to print a nine-figure loss on Mr. Trump’s New York return, he said. So, for example, the loss of “-915,729,293” on Line 18 of the return printed out as “5,729,293.” As a result, Mr. Mitnick recalled, he had to use his typewriter to manually add the “-91,” thus explaining why the first two digits appeared to be in a different font and were slightly misaligned from the following seven digits.

“This is legit,” he said, stabbing a finger into the document.

My guess: Hillary Clinton found out about this before the debate. Regarding the timing, the story says only that the Times obtained the records “last month.” If Hillary was tipped off, that could explain her comment at the debate speculating that the records, if revealed, would show that Trump had paid no income taxes for several years — an accusation that Trump seemed to confirm when he replied: “That makes me smart.”

This is a legitimate issue, and this story will increase the pressure on Trump to release the actual returns. The cynic in me suspects, however, that we won’t find out what he’s hiding until it’s too late.

UPDATE: Flashback:

UPDATE from Caleb: This is also fun:

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