Trump Struggles on Tax Defense, But Clinton May Have Used Same ‘Loss Avoidance’

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By Emily Zanotti | 1:15 am, October 3, 2016

Donald Trump’s team struggled on Sunday to respond to the New York Times‘s claims that a billion-dollar loss he suffered in 1995 may have allowed him to skate through the following two decades tax free.

The Times obtained a portion of Trump’s 1995 tax return, mailed to the newsroom by an anonymous tipster, which shows the real estate tycoon reporting a $916 million loss — a loss, the Times claims, could have been parlayed into an extended break from his IRS obligations.

The Times report, an early “October surprise”,  left the Trump camp searching for the right line of response. But late Sunday evening, the closely-read financial blog Zero Hedge reported that Hillary Clinton, who reported a $700,000 loss on her publicly available 2015 tax returns, could use the same “loss avoidance” technique to skip writing her own check for 2016.


ZeroHedge explains the loss simply: “pot, kettle, black.”

This analysis might be welcome news for Trump, whose anger over the Times’s revelations made headlines alongside his tax returns..

Saturday, Trump’s campaign issued a statement that linked the Times story to “media bias,” calling the paper “an extension of the Clinton Campaign, the Democratic Party and their global special interests.” Saturday night, Trump took the stage in Pennsylvania and veered off planned remarks into an imitation of Clinton fainting and suggestions that she may be unfaithful to her straying husband.

Early Sunday morning, Trump seemed more pulled together, Tweeting that his insider knowledge of the tax code – and how to manipulate it – made him the ideal leader to repair it. It’s the same line of attack he used when Clinton confronted him over his missing tax returns at the first debate.

By Sunday evening, he was back to the task at hand, urging Bernie Sanders to take back his endorsement of Clinton after secretly recorded audio from February came to light in which Clinton mocked Sanders’ young supporters as kids living in their parents’ basements.

Trump’s surrogates spent the day playing off Trump’s tax strategy as “smart,” with Rudy Giuliani even telling ABC News that his $916 million reported loss proved Trump was a “genius.” “He would have been a fool not to take advantage” of the system, Giuliani claimed. He later told CNN‘s Jake Tapper that if business people pay taxes, “they don’t have very good accountants.”

Chris Christie repeated the “genius” line but went one step further, telling Fox News Sunday that “[t]his is actually a very, very good story for Donald Trump…What it shows is what an absolute mess the federal tax code is, and that’s why Donald Trump is the person best positioned to fix it. There’s no one who’s showed more genius in their way to move around the tax code.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s allies moved opposition research showing that the New York Times failed to pay taxes, too. But the damage to Trump, coming off a very rough post-debate week, seems to be real.