- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The New York Times reported Sunday that Donald Trump lost $916 million in 1995, according to his tax returns from that year, which could allow him to use that loss to not pay taxes for the next 18 years.

Hillary Clinton thinks this revelation is a watershed moment for her campaign. Shortly after the report was published her team released a statement calling it a “bombshell,” and said the businessman “stiffed small businesses” and “laid off workers.”

“He apparently got to avoid paying taxes for nearly two decades — while tens of millions of working families paid theirs,” Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said. “He calls that smart.”

But not doing it would’ve been dumb. Who voluntarily pays more taxes than they’re required? I bet Mrs. Clinton doesn’t pay a nickel more than she owes.

As a real estate tycoon who was taking losses in New Jersey at the time, there was nothing scandalous about what Mr. Trump did. Other real developers with financial troubles do the same — they can more easily take take deductions for their properties through depreciation and loans. Average taxpayers who declare self-employment income know business losses are deductible.

The New York Times story showed Mr. Trump did nothing wrong or illegal — he only navigated current federal tax code.

His surrogates are rightly calling the move “genius.”

“The reality is, this is part of our tax code,” former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guilani told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “The man’s a genius. He knows how to operate the tax code to the benefit of the people he’s serving.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on “Fox News Sunday” that “there’s no one who’s shown more genius in their way to maneuver around the tax code to rightfully use the laws to do that.”

So will this hurt Mr. Trump?

According to a Wall Street Journal poll released last month, just 6 percent of voters said their top concern was his refusal to release his tax returns. Instead, voters said they are more concerned about broader issues that the Clinton campaign has long said show that Mr. Trump is not fit for public office, the Journal reported.

Mr. Trump can brush off this scandal by saying how the upper 1 percent like him can afford all the lawyers and accountants needed to take advantage of our poorly written tax code — a code Mrs. Clinton’s husband had a hand in writing.

He can then pivot to his proposed tax plan — which simplifies the code, compared to Mrs. Clinton’s plan, which raises the rates which, according to the Wall Street Journal, “would invite the rich to lobby Congress for more loopholes, which it would eventually pass, which would be fine for the Clintons and Donald Trump but would be terrible for middle-class Americans and the economy.”

Mr. Trump needs to get his campaign message back to the basics — he’s an outsider who spots government corruption and has the ability to change it. This tax code story actually gives him a vehicle in which to deliver it.

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