WASHINGTON, D.C. – Donald Trump’s tax records show that he could have avoided paying federal income tax for nearly 20 years, leaked documents have shown. He declared a $916m loss on his 1995 tax returns, an amount so great that it could have allowed him to avoid paying federal taxes for up to 18 years.

The 1995 document shows the benefits he derived from the financial disaster he left behind in the early 1990s after a series of catastrophic business ventures including the management of three Atlantic City casinos, his attempt at building an airline and the purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Tax loopholes mean that Mr Trump could have used this loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable over an 18 year period. His actual income in these years remains unknown, however, the loss was large enough to wipe out more than $50m a year in taxable income. It most certainly would have eliminated any taxes due on the $50 to $100,000 he was paid for each episode of ‘The Apprentice’ and the $45m salary he received as Chairman of the publicly traded company he created to manage the troubled Atlantic City casinos.

Trump, personally, declined to comment on the leaked documents, while his campaign released a statement that neither declined nor confirmed the loss. Instead saying that “the only news here is that a more than 20 year old alleged tax document was illegally obtained” and saying the investigation confirmed that the “New York Times, like establishment media in general, is an extension of the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Party, and their global special interests.” Before going on to turn the tables on Mrs Clinton, by claiming that her “emails and illegal server […] are far more illegal” and that “Mr Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.”

Mr Trump’s reluctance to make his tax returns public breaks with a decades old precedent in American presidential contests. His secrecy has become a key issue in the campaign with a majority of voters saying he should release them. Pressure has even come from within his own party to release his tax returns with the 2012 Republican Nominee, Mitt Romney, saying Mr Trump’s decision was “disqualifying.” The Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton, said that Trump was reluctant to release his tax returns because they would show he either has failed to pay his taxes, isn’t as charitable as he says he is, or that he is not as wealthy as he says he is.

The tax issue came to further prominence in the second presidential debate. When challenged by Hillary Clinton, she claimed that he was refusing to release his tax returns so that voters wouldn’t know “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes”, Mr Trump retorted “That makes me smart.”

Mr Trump then went onto claim that, when she was a senator, Mrs Clinton failed to close tax loopholes. He claimed that “she complains that Donald Trump took advantage of the tax code. Well, why didn’t she change it.”

Since Mr Trump has declined to release any of his tax returns, his actual tax strategy remains a mystery. With early voting underway, and polling day itself closing in, his tax situation will likely remain a mystery.

– Cameron Martin, Correspondent (Politics)

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