Trump Went Even Further Than Other Uber-Rich to Shrink Taxes

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The tax-avoidance strategies that President Donald Trump capitalized on to shrink his tax bill to essentially zero are surprisingly common among major real estate developers and other uber-wealthy Americans.
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WASHINGTON (AP) —

Yet Trump characteristically pushed those strategies to the limit — perhaps to the breaking point.

So say tax experts in the wake of a New York Times report Sunday that found that Trump paid only $750 in taxes in both 2016 and 2017 — and none at all in 11 of the 18 years that the newspaper examined.

"The things that Trump did are typical of wealthy businesspeople and particularly wealthy real estate developers," said Steve Wamhoff, director of federal tax policy at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Still, Wamhoff noted, Trump claims "the special breaks and loopholes that are available in the tax code and sometimes just takes them to a whole new level."

Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow and tax analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, suggested that given all the tax breaks available to him, it wasn't surprising that Trump paid so little in taxes.

But, Hanlon added, "it's still pretty shocking to see it.″

U.S. tax law has long been kind to big real estate developers. It allows them myriad legal loopholes and breaks that can significantly shrink their tax bills. The law became even more beneficial to them after Trump's Republican allies in Congress pushed through his $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, which took effect in 2018.

The Times reviewed Trump's tax returns for 2000 through 2017, so its report didn't capture the impact of the 2018 law. But Martin Sullivan, chief economist at Tax Analysts, said, "It is much easier now for a real estate developer to avoid taxes than it was five years ago."

Even before the 2018 law, developers could claim losses more quickly and easily than other businesses. They can also more easily delay or avoid reporting profits to the Internal Revenue Service. Even if…
David Mikkelson
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