Two of Donald Trump’s senior advisers say allegations that the Republican candidate for US president avoided paying income tax for 18 years highlight his “genius” at using tax laws to his advantage.
Chris Christie, a New Jersey Governor and head of Trump’s presidential transition team, told Fox News on Sunday that the Republican candidate was good at figuring out how to circumvent tax laws.
“There’s no one who has shown more genius in their way to manoeuvre about the tax code as he rightfully used the laws to do that,” Christie told Fox News.
“This was actually a very, very good story for him.”
In a story published by the New York Times on Sunday, the newspaper said it anonymously received the first pages of Trump’s 1995 state income tax filings in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut – showing a net loss of $915,729,293 in federal taxable income for that year.
According to tax experts hired by the Times, provisions in the tax code would have allowed Trump to use his near $916m loss to wipe out more than $50m a year in taxable income over 18 years.
Trump adviser and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani went further than Christie, describing Trump as an “absolute genius” for his understanding of the tax code.
“This is a perfectly legal application of the tax code. And he would have been a fool not to take advantage of it,” Giuliani told ABC’s This Week programme.
Giuliani compared Trump’s ability to come back from the nearly $1-billion loss with turnarounds made by Apple cofounder Steve Jobs and Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister, who led the United Kingdom through World War II.
“It shows what a genius he is. It shows he was able to preserve his enterprise, and then he was able to build it,” Giuliani said.
Trump’s campaign did not directly address the authenticity of the excerpts from Trump’s tax filings, but issued a statement saying that the tax documents were obtained illegally and accused the New York Times of operating as an extension of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.
“I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them. #failing@nytimes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2016
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the tax write-off “shows the colossal scale of his business failures” and that the wealthy property developer operates under a different set of rules than ordinary taxpayers.
Clinton has repeatedly called on Trump to release his tax returns, as has been standard practice for presidential candidates in modern times.
In August, Clinton released her 2015 tax return, along with her husband and former president Bill, reporting $10.6m in income for 2015.
They paid $3.6m in federal income tax, according to documents posted on her campaign website.
Democrats had hinted that by not releasing his tax returns, Trump may have been trying to hide that he paid little to no tax, made less money than he claims, or gave a negligible amount to charity.
Trump has declined to release his tax records, saying he will not do so until an audit of his returns by the Internal Revenue Service is complete.
The IRS has said that an audit does not bar an individual from sharing their own tax information.