Mr. Trump, please release your returns. I have so much to learn
I really wish he would release his tax returns. I learned a number of tricks from Romney’s returns that has saved me money. I am sure I would find additional methods from Trump’s.
I am pretty sure he pays no taxes and it is for the most part (but not completely) legal. As the New York Times has reported, He had an almost billion dollar ($916 million) loss in in 1995. I assume that Trump uses pass through structures like Limited Liability Companies and S Corps for his business. This allows him to write off the losses from his personal income taxes. If he did not have enough income (and I doubt that he had much income from a tax perspective), he could carry forward the losses and shelter future income. However, to do this he had actually to have a basis worth that amount. That is, he had actually invested $916 million dollars. Frankly, I doubt this. I am trying to figure out how he got this deduction without having made the full investment. He probably was leveraged. Maybe he was able to convert his business into a C Corp after he took the loss and then put it into bankruptcy to wipe out the loan without having to get forgiveness of debt income.
Depreciation and leverage, two beautiful things.
Trump makes his money from real estate investments in addition to other activities like his media business. Real Estate is a great way to earn money and not pay taxes. Frankly, I do some of this myself. Here is how it works. Let’s say you buy a building for $100 million dollars in the year 1996. You borrow $80 million and only put $20 million of your own money to work. You get to depreciate (write off) about 4% a year (there are ways to write off more). The income you receive from rents etc is reduced by your expenses which include mortgage interest and the depreciation. Let’s say that the building increased by 100% in ten years. It is now worth $200 million. Assuming the mortgage was interest only, your equity in the building is now $120 million with $100 million of unrealized gains. You have depreciated the building by 40% of the original purchase price. If you were to sell the building you would have to pay capital gains on $160 million. But no, you keep the building but refinance it. You get a loan for $160 million. Remember you only put in $20 million to start with. You can handle the increase in the interest payments because you have been able to increase the rents. Now, you have $160 million in cash. You need spending money of course. So you use part of this money to support your lifestyle. Let’s say you keep $60million. Now, you have $100 million to use as a downpayment on a new building(s). You buy a place for $500 million and borrow $400 million. Ten years later that building is worth $800 million. Your equity is $400 million. You borrow again. Remember, we started with $20 million twenty years earlier. We still have not paid a dime in tax.