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The Time Donald Trump’s Tax Returns Showed That He Paid Nothing

May 20, 2016, 4:44 PM UTC
Photograph by Gabrielle Lurie — AFP/Getty Images

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump reportedly paid absolutely nothing in federal income taxes for at least two years in the late 1970s thanks to a tax code provision giving major advantages to large property developers.

The Washington Post reports that Trump’s tax returns last became public in 1981 among a slew of casino regulatory filings. The real estate mogul reported negative income in several of those years, eliminating his tax liability.

As investigative reporter David Cay Johnston has previously noted, Trump was able to claim negative income of $406,379 in 1978 and $3.4 million in 1979. The reason? A tax provision requiring developers and building owners to depreciate buildings’ value over time and allowing them to count this loss in value as a deduction against their income. With enough buildings and their corresponding depreciation on the books, Trump’s income could technically turn negative.


Fortune has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment on the returns and will update this post if they respond.

Trump has adamantly refused to release his tax returns in recent months, citing an IRS audit and asserting that his financials are “none of your business” and drawing the ire of critics such as 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney. There’s been rampant speculation that Trump’s resistance to disclosing the figures stems from a low tax rate, particularly for a man of his wealth, thanks to tax code provisions such as the building depreciation deduction.

He would be the first major party presidential nominee to not release his or her returns in four decades if he hews to his current position.