Trump Tax Saga Shines Spotlight on Benefits of CRE Ownership

Depreciation, debt write-offs, tax credits and other measures are among the tax avoidance benefits inherent in the sector.

It may seem like a lifetime ago, but before news of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak involving President Trump, White House staffers, Republican politicians and others, the New York Times stirred up a political firestorm surrounding President Trump’s personal finances with a new investigation revealing a staggering amount of business losses over the past two decades. The headline grabber was that he paid just $750 in personal federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and nothing in 11 of the 18 previous years. Additionally, the article said he claimed a total of $1.4 billion in losses from his core businesses for 2008 and 2009 and collected a $72.9 million refund for the 2010 tax year.

The article is just another chapter in the ongoing saga of President Trump’s personal tax returns, which he has chosen not to release to the public as most political candidates have done in recent decades. The New York Times piece amplified earlier reporting it had done in 2019 alleging that President Trump had reported $1.17 billion in losses from 1985 to 1994. As with those findings, the new revelations have put the tax benefits of commercial real estate ownership firmly in the spotlight.

President Trump has said publicly that he has paid millions in taxes, including property and payroll taxes. At the same time, he also has been candid in admitting he has utilized tax credits, deductions and real estate depreciation to offset income. For example, the Trump Organization received $40 million in Federal Historic Tax credits for its 2014, $200 million renovation of the Old Post Office just blocks from the White House into the 272-room Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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