The New York Times has finally landed its white whale: Trump’s tax returns, going back more than two decades. The biggest finding from the bombshell investigation, which dropped early Sunday evening, is that the president paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016. He paid the same amount the following year—the first he was in office—and he paid no federal income tax at all in 11 of the 18 years the Times examined.
$750. $750! It’s a number that boggles the mind. And because it’s such a low number—because it’s not simply zero—it becomes concrete and therefore memorable. $750 might be a rent payment, the cost of a single medical bill, or a month’s worth of student loans. And it’s easily multipliable: Some quick math might tell you that last year you paid five, 10, 15 times what the president, a reported billionaire, did.
According to the Times report, Trump was able to get away with paying so little in income tax primarily by reporting huge losses, which during his 2016 campaign alone amounted to close to $1 billon. That particular financial hit allowed him to legally avoid paying income tax for nearly two decades, potentially voiding more than $50 million in taxable income. His losses have also helped him get away with skirting tax on profits resulting from enterprises like The Apprentice, which has netted him $600 million in various branding deals and investments.
Much of this arrangement is thanks to a workaround in the tax code that benefits the super-rich, allowing them to offset income with investment losses and carry those losses over several years. But Trump is also in a protracted battle with the IRS over a disputed $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed in 2010, which could end up costing him $100 million.
There’s a lot more to unpack from the Times’ investigation—they’ve helped us out by putting together a summary of some of the major takeaways–but for now we’ll be thinking about that puny, insulting number. $750.