An overview of the The New York Times report

On Sept. 27, The New York Times released information from a long term investigation releasing President Donald Trump’s tax history. There is a lot to unpack from the information, and the report was addressed in the first Presidential Debate. When moderator Chris Wallace directly asked Trump about the report, he replied “I paid millions of dollars in taxes.” 

Journalists Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire wrote about the documents containing, “revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundred of millions in debt coming due.” 

A note from editor Dean Baquet explained in the coming weeks, more details will be released, but the actual records will not be because of privacy issues. 


According to The Daily podcast, which provides a deeper perspective from investigative journalists Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, three pages of Donald Trump’s tax returns from 1985-1995 were left in Buettner’s mailbox. The anticipated information includes a timeline showing that Trump’s core businesses lost 1.2 billion dollars, facing lawsuits. A few of these businesses include: casinos, clothing, real estate in golf courses and resorts and Trump University.

Buettner and Craig advocate that throughout the years prior to Donald Trump’s election, all that was documented was major financial loss, showing numbers that don’t match up to his current economic status. The forms have been long sought after, as this is the second investigation done by the Times during Trump’s term. 

Susanne Craig said in the podcast that the records are, “Arguably the most important finances because they were the leadup to when he ran for president. We have thousands of tax returns, personal and corporate that include two years of his time in the White House.” 

The documents claim that Trump paid no income taxes for 11 out of 18 years in total; investigated by the Times, all while facing massive financial losses. The losses reported are after Trump reached a peak in business, having a networth of $417 million. The losses have contributed to the lower taxes. 

A major find in the report is “A decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund.” According to the report, the refund was taken after Trump “cited a giant financial loss,” which was allegedly tied to the failure of his Atlantic City casinos. 

Buetnner views the dramatic gains and losses as a representation of Trump’s business experience. The TV show appearances and net worth behind the Trump name brought in easy money, but the personal businesses “they [became] big financial black holes,” said Buetnner in The Daily podcast. 

During presidency

During the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s platform revolved around his success as a businessman. In 2016, questions about his personal finances and tax returns began circulating in the media, but the documents were not released. 

Trump’s reasoning for not releasing the documents to the public was, “I pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, but as soon as my routine audit is finished, I’ll release my returns, I’ll be very proud to,” as heard in a soundbite in The Daily

One of the biggest claims is that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes for the 2016 and 2017 years. The Trump Organization has responded to the claims. Lawyer Alan Garten said that the numbers are wrong and Donald Trump has paid millions of dollars in “personal taxes.” 

David Leonhardt of the New York Times commented on the report saying, “It is important to remember that the returns are not an unvarnished look at Mr. Trump’s business activity. They are instead his own portrayal of his companies, compiled for the I.R.S. But they do offer the most detailed picture yet available.”

The tax records claim that President Trump’s personal businesses have benefited greatly from his powerful position. On the report, there are claims of “consulting fees,” which make up for 20 percent of his income. The fees are mostly tied to unnamed hotel projects, but his daughter, Ivanka Trump, received the same fees that she filed in 2017

The report claims that international affairs have also helped his business. The Times reports that during his first two years as president, “Mr. Trump received millions of dollars from projects in foreign countries, including $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey.”

The New York Times has said they will release more details about the documents in the coming weeks.