NY Times scandalized by its own baseless guess that Trump might pay little or no income tax

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Friday August 12th, 2016

We'd like to know: Why is paying a lot in taxes a good thing?

I don't know any normal people who are pining for Donald Trump to release his tax returns, since normal people don't care how much political candidates pay in taxes. But journalists are obsessed with the matter, because they decided long ago for some bizarre reason that if a candidate has paid a lot in taxes, that is somehow a recommendation of him as a good president.

That makes no sense whatsoever, which we'll get to in a moment. But first, let's check the recent fine work of the New York Times. Since they don't have Trump's tax returns, they went to a variety of "tax experts" and asked what said experts think Trump might pay in taxes. This thorough exercise in journalistic guesswork produced the wild-ass speculation that Trump might not pay very much. Or maybe even - gasp - nothing!

Mitt Romney was excoriated during the 2012 presidential campaign for paying $4.9 million in federal income tax, or an average of just 14 percent of his adjusted gross income, in the two years for which he released returns.

No one should be surprised, though, if Donald J. Trump has paid far less — perhaps even zero federal income tax in some years. Indeed, that’s the expectation of numerous real estate and tax professionals I’ve interviewed in recent weeks.

Even with hundreds of millions in gross revenue from his vast real estate empire, “it’s both possible and legal that Donald Trump would pay little or no income tax,” said Len Green, an accountant and chairman of the Green Group, a tax and accounting advisory firm. Mr. Green is also a real estate investor, teaches at Babson College and is the author of the forthcoming “The Entrepreneur’s Playbook.”

“I would expect he’s paying little or no tax,” agreed Steven M. Rosenthal, a veteran tax lawyer and senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy center.

That’s because Mr. Trump, as a prominent and active developer, can take advantage of some of the most generous tax breaks in the federal tax code to reduce his reported income to near zero, or even report a loss.

Few tax advisers to major real estate developers would speak for attribution, because their clients benefit from the same tax breaks available to Mr. Trump. But all told me they knew developers in Mr. Trump’s league who pay little or no income tax despite hundreds of millions in cash flow.

So based on the speculation of these tax consultants, none of whom have any familiarity with Trump's actual finances, the Times speculates that he pays little or nothing. Now there's some fine reporting! "We can't find out so we'll guess."

Thank you so much, New York Times.

But there's a better question to be asked here. The excerpt above starts with a reminder that Mitt Romney was "excoriated" because he paid only 14 percent of his income in taxes, as if it's clearly better to pay a lot in taxes than to pay a little or none. Who decided that? If you're a businessman or any sort of capitalist, your entire goal is to maximize your income while minimizing your exposure to costs and liabilities, and yes, liberals, that includes tax liabilities. If Mitt Romney or Donald Trump are not familiar with the mechanisms that will allow them to reduce their tax obligations, then they are incompetent businessmen. If they are aware of them but they choose to pay more anyway, they are idiots.

And not just because it's contrary to their own best interests. Liberals and their media megaphones like the New York Times think the best thing that can be done with a dollar is to pay it "into the system" in the form of taxes so that politicians can make sure something good is done with it. That is complete nonsense. When you pay a dollar in U.S. federal taxes, you are paying it into the most inefficient, bureaucratic, irrationally run institution in the entire world - with the possible exceptions of the United Nations, Comcast and the Detroit Lions.

Almost anything you do with that dollar is better - and does more good - than paying it to the government. If you buy something with it, you reward someone's effort at productivity and good retail service. If you invest it, you help spur the success of a business enterprise, or perhaps several. If you put it in a savings account, you earn interest and provide more capital for your bank to lend to others. If you put it under your pillow, you've got it handy when you get thirsty and you want to go buy a delicious Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

Or you can pay it in taxes and let Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton decide what will be done with it.

Anyone who seeks to pay more of his income in taxes is an inept moron who is unlikely to make wise fiscal decisions as president. People who seek to pay less in taxes understand the principles of good financial practices and are much more likely to be wise stewards of the nation's fiscal resources.

So I have no idea what Donald Trump paid in taxes, and neither does the New York Times. But if it's true that he paid nothing, three cheers for him. Sounds like the kind of guy we want running the U.S. Treasury.

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