Trump sons say President pays payroll taxes, uses 'loopholes'

Mr Eric Trump and Mr Donald Trump Jr (left) disputed the New York Times' stories while acknowledging some of their underpinnings. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Donald Trump's companies pay millions of dollars in payroll, real estate and other taxes, his sons said on Tuesday (Sept 29) in defending their father against the New York Times' reporting on the President's avoidance of income tax.

In a pair of separate television interviews on Tuesday morning, Mr Eric Trump and Mr Donald Trump Jr disputed the New York Times' stories while acknowledging some of their underpinnings: that Mr Donald Trump, as a real estate developer, has exploited depreciation, tax credits and other provisions of the tax code to reduce his personal tax bill.

"He's paying tens of millions in taxes - now, he's not going to pay more" than he needs to, Mr Donald Trump Jr said on Tuesday on Fox Business Network.

"And by the way, he's following the tax code that people like Joe Biden, who has been in DC for 47 years, have written. He's playing by their rules. Joe Biden is taking advantage of the same loopholes."

The sons hold executive positions in the Trump Organisation, the conglomeration of businesses that comprise much of the family's wealth.

"The amount of real estate taxes my father pays, the amount of payroll taxes, the amount of taxes we pay as a company - but you know, guess what, if you put US$200 million into a project, you have things like depreciation, you have tax credits, you have other things," Mr Eric Trump said in a separate interview on Fox News.

"That's part of investing billions and billions in this nation."

"My father pays a fortune in taxes, so let's get that straight," he added, without specifically addressing the amount of income tax Mr Donald Trump has paid.

The New York Times reported, beginning Sunday, that Mr Trump paid just US$750 (S$1,026.65) in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017, his first year in the White House, and that he paid no income tax at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, thanks to massive losses by his businesses.

The paper also reported that Mr Trump is in a long-running dispute with the IRS over a US$72.9 million refund he received beginning a decade a go.

Mr Biden has released tax returns showing that in 2017 he and his wife paid more than US$3.7 million in federal income taxes.

Mr Eric Trump accused the Internal Revenue Service of leaking his father's tax documents to the New York Times.

"I really believe this is the IRS scandal of this generation," he said. "They're targeting my father because he's doing a great job and they don't like him."

Mr Donald Trump has regularly declined to release his tax returns, breaking a precedent for modern-day presidents and presidential candidates. He has cited an ongoing, years-long IRS audit as justification.

The President has dismissed the New York Times story as "made up", but has declined to offer his returns, or other documentation, as substantiation.

"Actually, I paid tax," the President said on Sunday during a news conference. "It's under audit. They've been under audit for a long time. The IRS does not treat me well."

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