The New York Times article is based on printouts from Trump's official tax transcripts — not actual tax returns — which were provided to the outlet by an anonymous source with legal access to the information. According to the transcripts, Trump lost $46.1 million from his core businesses, namely his casinos, hotels and apartment building retail spaces, in 1985. The losses continued to accrue, reaching $1.17 billion by 1994.
"In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the IRS information for those years," the report states. In addition, Trump only paid income taxes in 1987 ($124,344) and in 1998 ($1.4 million).
Trump has frequently boasted about his business success and wealth. In June 2015, just before announcing his presidential candidacy, he referred to himself as the "most successful person to run for the presidency, by far," in an interview with the Des Moines Register.
"Nobody's ever been more successful than me. I'm the most successful person ever to run," he gloated.
However, the New York Times article leaves the reputation Trump has painted for himself in ruins. Rather than the successful business mogul he presents himself as, it now instead appears that he made a practice of borrowing tens of millions of dollars only to subsequently lose hundreds of millions of dollars, which resulted in him not paying income tax, as his net business income was zero or negative. He also often times bought stock in companies, which caused the stock price to increase. However, instead of buying the company, as other investors theorized he would, he would then cash out. It appears as though he maintained a lavish lifestyle because he was spending money borrowed from banks and bond investors.
"I worked at a bank from 1986 to 1990, [where] Donald Trump applied for a loan for the Taj Mahal casino," Rall told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker. Trump's Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City was built in 1990 and cost nearly $1 billion. In 2016, the casino announced that it would soon close, a year after it admitted to having violated anti-money laundering regulations for years. The casino was fined $10 million by the US government and has since been renamed the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. It is currently owned by Hard Rock International.
"I saw his taxes during that period, and I was very, very familiar with his finances, and I personally turned him down for a $25 million line of credit for the Taj Mahal casino project in Atlantic City. I remember coming home to my girlfriend and telling her — and we were very broke, swimming in student loan debts and living in the slumps — and I said, ‘I have good news, honey. We are richer than Donald Trump.' Assets minus liability is your net worth, and he's not worth anything. What he had, like wealthy people, is the ability to get debt. He had credit, and he could talk people — who really ought to know better — into lending him money, even though he was obviously a deadbeat and his project was doomed," Rall told Sputnik.
In a series of tweets Monday, Trump fired back at the New York Times, stating that real estate developers in the 1980s and 1990s were "entitled to massive write-offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2019
"He's partly telling the truth," Rall told Sputnik.
"It's definitely true that the whole tax code was written for real estate developers — and they want to show losses so they don't pay taxes. The tax code treats people like Donald Trump as though [they are a] rusty old car. While his building is appreciating in actual value, the stuff that's inside the building, the building materials and so on, is rotting and rusting away into dust. So, you could [continue to] buy, as Donald Trump did. And that is how a man who can be very poor on paper can nevertheless borrow tons of money and live a lavish lifestyle and afford two divorces," Rall explained.
"There's not really many rich people who have lots of cash. They borrow a ton of money, and basically the game is, you invest in a lot of stuff with other people's money, and then if it works out, great, you pocket the winnings. [But] if it crashes and burns, you declare bankruptcy, and you walk away clear," Rall noted.
Charles Harder, an attorney for Trump, has refuted the New York Times article, stating that is it based on "inherently unreliable" tax transcripts.
"IRS transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate, incomplete and selective in any information that may have been manually inputted into (or omitted from) the IRS system," Harder said in a recent statement.
According to Rall, Trump may be reluctant to release his tax returns, which Democrats have demanded, because they have the potential to ruin his public persona.
"If he's not rich, who is he? Why did we elect him? The point of electing Donald Trump was that he would run the country the way he ran his successful business," Rall noted.