Iowa leaders debate Trump's taxes

Some call him a 'genius,' others say he should pay 'fair share'

Iowa treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, flanked by Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO secretary and treasurer Charlie Wishman (left) and state attorney general Tom Miller, addresses reporters at a news conference Monday on the Iowa Capitol grounds in Des Moines. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)
Iowa treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, flanked by Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO secretary and treasurer Charlie Wishman (left) and state attorney general Tom Miller, addresses reporters at a news conference Monday on the Iowa Capitol grounds in Des Moines. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)

DES MOINES --- Donald Trump may have paid no federal income taxes for nearly two decades, according to a New York Times report published over the weekend.

Iowa Democrats spent Monday admonishing Trump, the Republican candidate for president, for not being more forthcoming with his tax returns and for potentially paying no income taxes for a prolonged period.

State treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and attorney general Tom Miller, both Democrats, discussed Trump’s taxes with Iowa reporters in a news conference on the Iowa Capitol grounds. The event was organized by the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who also addressed Trump’s taxes Monday at an event in Ohio.

Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 tax returns, which would have enabled him to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years, according to the New York Times report.

Unlike most previous major-party presidential candidates since the 1970s, Trump has not released his tax returns. His 1995 tax documents were anonymously mailed to the Times.

Even if Trump did not pay any federal income taxes over those 18 years, such avoidance would not have been illegal, tax experts told the Times.

“We’re saying that there should be change in the tax code and this really, dramatically points it out,” Miller said Monday. “But we’re saying that if he’s going to be president of the United States, he should pay his fair share ...

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“It’s not unfair to ask someone who’s (possibly) going to be president of the United States and have the obligation to watch out for everybody, for them to pay at least their fair share. He should refrain at least in part from using some of these deductions and avoidances and pay an amount that’s equivalent to the working person, and should do that voluntarily if he wants to be president.”

When Clinton, during the recent presidential debate, suggested Trump may not have paid federal income taxes, Trump responded by asserting that made him “smart.” Supporters of Trump’s campaign, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, during television interviews said in response to the New York Times report that Trump is “a genius” to avoid paying federal income taxes.

Trump’s campaign issued a statement in response to the Times report saying Trump has “a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” although the report is regarding Trump’s personal income tax, not corporate income taxes. The campaign also said Trump has paid “hundreds of millions of dollars” in other property, sales, real estate and local taxes.

The campaign also suggested Trump’s business acumen makes him most qualified to serve as president.

“Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for president and he is the only one that knows how to fix it,” the Trump campaign statement said. “The incredible skills Mr. Trump has shown in building his business are the skills we need to rebuild this country.”

Terry Branstad, Iowa’s Republican governor, said earlier Monday at his weekly news conference that while Trump wants to fix the federal tax code from which he has benefitted.

Branstad has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s campaign, and his son Eric is the director of Trump’s campaign in Iowa.

Branstad in 1982, during his first gubernatorial campaign, criticized his Democratic opponent Roxanne Conlin after she revealed she paid no state income tax in 1981 largely because of depreciation on real estate owned by her and her husband.

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“(Trump) used the present federal system like my opponents and many others have over the years,” Branstad said Monday. “Probably he’s the best one to fix it because he knows where the problems are ...

“Donald Trump has been so audacious to admit that. Yes, he’s gotten rich off the system. But he says the system is flawed and ought to be changed.”

Fitzgerald asserted that Trump’s plan for changing the tax code amount to little more than tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

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