Report: Trump Used 'Legally Dubious' Way to Avoid Paying Taxes

New York Times says even Trump's lawyers questioned move, in which he claimed his creditors' losses as his own when his Atlantic City casinos went broke.

his June 7, 1995, file photo shows real estate magnate Donald Trump posing for photos above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after taking his flagship Trump Plaza Casino public in New York City.
Kathy Willens / AP

The New York Times says Donald Trump avoided paying potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes in a way even his own lawyers considered questionable.

The newspaper says the maneuver may explain how Trump posted a one-year loss of more than $900 million in 1995, enabling him to avoid paying federal income taxes on as much as $50 million a year for 18 years.

At issue is how Trump canceled hundreds of millions of dollars of debt as his Atlantic City casinos went broke. The Times says it obtained documents showing that Trump claimed his creditors' losses as his own, a strategy that his lawyers said the IRS would likely not allow. Congress later explicitly banned the maneuver in 2004. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Trump's approach was appropriate.

Since 1976, every major party presidential nominee has released tax returns. Clinton has publicly released nearly 40 years' worth, and Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has released 10 years of his tax returns.

But after initially saying that he would make his returns public during the course of his campaign, Trump switched course, citing what he said were years of ongoing IRS audits and the advice of his attorneys to keep them private as those audits proceed.

Former IRS officials have expressed skepticism that anyone would be audited so frequently, and they and other tax experts say there's no prohibition on Trump releasing his returns even if he is.