Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in the year he was elected US president and also in his first year in the White House, according to a media report, which also said that he or his companies paid $145,400 taxes in India in 2017.
Trump entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and was elected in a surprise victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"Donald J Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750," the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing tax return data extending over 20 years.
The report came just days before Trump's first presidential debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden on Tuesday and weeks before the November 3 presidential election.
Trump paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years—largely because he reported losing much more money than he made, the report said.
The US president immediately dismissed the report as "totally fake news".
US presidents are not required by law to release details of their personal finances, but every one since Richard Nixon has done so. Trump, who has fiercely guarded his tax filings, is the only president in modern times not to make them public.
He has, in fact, fielded court challenges against those seeking access to his returns, including the US House, which is suing for access to Trump's tax returns as part of congressional oversight.
According to the NYT investigative report, Trump has long fought to keep private a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public.
"His reports to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president," it said.
The report claimed to have obtained tax-return data extending over two decades for Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organisation, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019.
The report revealed that in his first two years in the White House, Trump’s revenue from abroad totalled $73 million, much of which was from his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland. Some of the revenue came from licensing deals in countries like Philippines ($3 million), India ($2.3 million) and Turkey ($1 million).
"He reported paying taxes, in turn, on a number of his overseas ventures," it said, adding, "In 2017, the president's $750 contribution to the operations of the US government was dwarfed by the $15,598 he or his companies paid in Panama, the $145,400 in India and the $156,824 in the Philippines."
The tax data examined provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defence lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, the report said.
The records "reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image", it said.
Meanwhile, at a White House press briefing on Sunday, Trump dismissed the NYT report as “totally fake news” and claimed that the media house has tried the same thing previously too.
“It’s fake news. It’s totally fake news. Made up. Fake. We went through the same stories. You could have asked me the same questions four years ago. I had to litigate this and talk about it," he said.
"I paid tax...you'll see that as soon as my tax returns—it's under audit. They've been under audit for a long time," Trump said.
The president said the IRS does not treat him well. "You have people in the IRS—they treat me very badly—The New York Times tried the same thing. They want to create a little bit of a story... they're doing anything they can," he said.
Responding to questions, Trump said he has paid a lot of money in taxes. “First of all, I’ve paid a lot, and I paid a lot of state income taxes, too. The New York State charges a lot and I paid a lot of money in state. It'll all be revealed. It's going to come out...after the audit," he said.
Trump said he has 108 pages of tax filings "for all these different companies that do very well, obviously".
"Those filings are very complete. They're very big. They’re very powerful. They're very accurate. Those are the filings that you'll learn much more and when it’s done," Trump said.