The last time information from Donald Trump’s income-tax returns was made public, the bottom line was striking: He had paid the federal government $0 in income taxes.
The disclosure, in a 1981 report by New Jersey gambling regulators, revealed that the wealthy Manhattan investor had for at least two years in the late 1970s taken advantage of a tax-code provision popular with developers that allowed him to report negative income.
Trump has defended his use of public tax assistance to boost private projects. He said opponents of such government supports, including some conservatives, are out of touch with reality.
“The true conservative philosophy is that a thing like that shouldn’t happen. But they’re in the world of the make-believe,” Trump said in an interview. “The real world is that without certain tax abatements, you have a choice. The job could get built . . . or you don’t have to have anything. It could just go stagnant, and a town can die.”
Trump’s strategy to ease his company’s tax burden has resulted in sore feelings in some communities, where local governments rely heavily on tax receipts from large businesses.
In Ossining, N.Y., home to a Trump National Golf Club, town officials say that a tax break being sought by the company would cost their coffers more than $200,000 a year.
Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, a Democrat, expressed frustration that Trump seemed to be gaining “at other people’s loss.”
“It’s hard to look at someone who talks about their wealth frequently and think they got that successful on other people’s backs,” she said.