Trump's reported $750 federal income tax bill is smaller than the average payment by an American household making $20,000 a year

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
  • Trump paid $US750 in federal income taxes for 2016 and 2017, and none for many years before, according to a bombshell New York Times report on Sunday.
  • The $US750 figure drew much attention since millions of Americans pay more than that every year, and it’s less than the average tax payment for a household earning $US20,000 a year.
  • “Business owners, especially in real estate, have lots of opportunities to avoid taxes that working people don’t have,” tax expert Seth Hanlon said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump paid only $US750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, and none for many years before, according to a new bombshell report in The New York Times published Sunday.

The Times obtained tax-return data spanning almost two decades for the president and his companies. They indicated his small tax payments are a product of his business empire losing a substantial amount of cash.

“Trump’s tax returns suggest he has only ever been successful as a showman, not at running actual businesses,” Lily Batchelder, a tax law professor at New York University, wrote on Twitter.

The $US750 figure is drawing a big amount of public attention. It’s a substantially smaller tax bill compared to what millions of Americans owe the federal government every year.

“People with modest means pay more than that and I think that’s really gonna get under people’s skin,” Seth Hanlon, a tax expert at the left-leaning Centre for American Progress, told Business Insider.

He noted a single worker without children earning $US18,000 annually would have paid $US760 in income taxes in 2017 — an amount roughly equal to Trump, a self-professed billionaire who’s long enjoyed a lavish lifestyle.

Batchelder shared a chart on Twitter illustrating average tax payments using adjusted gross incomes for households during the first year of Trump’s presidency. The IRS defines it as including wages, capital gains, dividends, business income, and retirement distributions.

The data — drawn from the IRS — shows Trump’s tax payment is less compared to households earning between $US20,000 and $US25,000 each year. Around 9 million people filed tax returns in that group, said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, a progressive think tank.

It’s also a significantly smaller amount than households earning between $US25,000 and $US75,000 annually.

Hanlon said Trump’s small tax bills were emblematic of “a broken tax code and a person who steps over the line.”

“Business owners, especially in real estate, have lots of opportunities to avoid taxes that working people don’t have,” he said. “Trump seems to be taking full advantage of every deduction available to him legally and then some.”

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Trump used a raft of expenses connected to his TV show “The Apprentice” — which businesses can write off — to reduce tax payments. Among them: $US70,000 used to style his hair.

During a White House press conference on Sunday, Trump defended his tax practices. “I’ve paid a lot, and I paid a lot in state income taxes, too,” he said.

Trump’s tax manoeuvres quickly drew criticism from Democrats. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign quickly turned the $US750 figure into a 30-second ad comparing the president’s tax payments to those of essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, and nurses, who paid much more.

Top congressional Democrats also blasted Trump after the Times report.

“It is a sign of President Trump’s disdain for America’s working families that he has spent years abusing the tax code while passing a GOP Tax Scam for the rich that gives 83 per cent of the benefits to the wealthiest 1 per cent,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, referring to the 2017 Republican tax cuts.

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