December 2, 2020

Trump accused Warren Buffett of taking massive tax deductions in 2016. The future president paid just $750 in federal income tax that year.

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  • President Trump claimed in 2016 that Warren Buffett had used past business losses to lower his federal income tax bill.
  • The billionaire investor responded that he had paid federal income taxes every year since 1944, and charitable contributions and state income taxes accounted for the vast majority of his deductions.
  • Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, and none in 10 of the previous 15 years, The New York Times reported this week.
  • The president used $916 million of losses to reduce his tax payments between 1995 and 2005, claimed and received a $73 million tax refund that remains under IRS audit, and deducted costs such as hair stylists as business expenses, the report said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Warren Buffett may be feeling vindicated by the New York Times report this week that President Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and no income taxes in 10 of the preceding 15 years.

Trump called out Buffett during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in October 2016, claiming the billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO had carried forward past business losses to lower his federal income tax bill, just as Trump had done in the mid-1990s.

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“Many of her friends took bigger deductions,” Trump countered when Clinton questioned his use of $916 million in net operating losses to lower his tax burden in the ’90s. “Warren Buffett took a massive deduction.”

Trump also proclaimed at a rally in Arizona that month that Buffett had declared $873 million in losses, adding that he doubted the investor wrote them off instead of carrying them forward.

Buffett responded by releasing the details of his 2015 tax return. He paid $1.8 million in federal income taxes that year, he said, representing about 16% of his adjusted gross income.

The Berkshire boss also disclosed $5.5 million in deductions, with all but $36,000 of that sum reflecting charitable contributions and state income taxes, he added. He said his previous tax returns showed a similar pattern.

“I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13,” Buffett said. “I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward.”

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Meanwhile, Trump paid federal income taxes for the first time in four years in 2015, to the tune of $642,000, the New York Times reported this week. He exhausted the $916 million operating loss he declared in 1995 by 2005, the newspaper said.

The New York Times report revealed that Trump remains locked in battle with the IRS over a $73 million tax refund he claimed and received starting in 2010. It also highlighted Trump’s history of deducting such things as hair stylists, table linens, and property taxes on a family estate as business expenses.

The report supports Buffett’s famous criticism of US tax laws and loopholes that allow him to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. The revelation spurred numerous politicians to propose a “Buffett rule” raising taxes on the ultra wealthy.