On her MSNBC news show last night, Rachel Maddow had the two New York Times reporters who broke the story of receiving those three pages of Donald Trump's 1995 tax return that showed an operating loss of almost a billion dollars. The pages were mailed anonymously to one of the reporters, Susanne Craig, from an address at Trump Tower.
Fellow Times reporter David Barstow flew to Florida to get the authenticity of the pages verified by Trump's former accountant who had prepared the tax return. He was able to authenticate these pages, including an explanation for why the numbers did not quite line up: the computer software he used to fill out the forms did not make room for a 9 digit number in the loss column, so he had to enter that line using his old typewriter.
Barstow also explained that this $915,729,293 loss did not necessarily all occur in one year, since this kind of loss is allowed to be carried forward to subsequent years letting the loss offset future profits. Craig and Barstow had found other evidence that Trump probably had big losses in 1991 and 1993, which is more plausible since the real estate market had big losses in the early 1990s but had recovered by 1995. They also said that tax experts found no evidence of illegalities in what could be deduced from just those three pages; but it would obviously require studying the entire return to clear the overall tax return. Don't feel too bad for Trump; that near-billion-dollar loss probably is, in large part, paper losses, such as depreciation -- even when the properties are appreciating. That's legal in real estate law.
Trump and his surrogates are spinning this as a "brilliant" use of the tax code legally for Trump's benefit. But the Clinton campaign is emphasizing that this is the problem: the law does allow this kind of advantage to wealthy people, and real estate dealers in particular. The average Americans, in contrast, have no such loopholes to allow them to avoid paying taxes.