During Sunday's presidential debate, Donald Trump called out some of his opponent Hillary Clinton's wealthier supporters for allegedly taking "massive" tax deductions to avoid paying federal income taxes. Clinton disputed that claim during the debate, but one billionaire took it a step further. On Monday, Warren Buffett released his tax returns to prove Trump wrong. Buffett, a Clinton supporter, showed that he has in fact been paying income tax every single year for the past 72 years.
Trump's inaccurate statement about Buffett came on the heels of The New York Times revealing that Trump claimed a $916 million loss in 1995 that could have exempted him from paying income taxes for 18 years. When debate moderator Anderson Cooper questioned him about his use of the "carryforward" tax rule, Trump admitted to not paying federal income taxes for years. He then promptly turned the conversation back to criticism of Clinton and her supporters.
"I absolutely used it," Trump said. "And so did Warren Buffett and so did George Soros and so did many of the other people that Hillary is getting money from." Trump claimed that a lot of his tax write-offs were "depreciation and other things that Hillary as a senator allowed. And she'll always allow it because the people that give her all this money, they want it."
Clinton responded to Trump's comment about her allowing tax write-offs by claiming to have been opposed to the carryforward rule since she was New York senator. This is partially true; Clinton has publicly opposed carried interest, but only since she ran for president in 2007. (For her part, Clinton has said she endorses the "Buffett rule," which would require people with incomes of more than $5 million to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.)
But Buffett did not use the carryforward rule, according to a statement. "I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13," said Buffett, who was listed as the third-wealthiest person in the world in 2015. "(Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward."
While there is no evidence that Trump has done anything illegal when it comes to his taxes, the Republican candidate has come under fire for the past few months for not releasing his tax records. Conversely, Clinton has released her 2015 personal tax return, and her running mate Senator Tim Kaine and his wife Anne Holton have released 10 years of their tax returns.
Trump's reasoning for not releasing his returns is that he is currently facing an audit from the Internal Revenue Service. "I pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, but, but as soon as my routine audit is finished I'll release my returns," Trump told The New York Times. "I'll be very proud to."
But, as Buffett pointed out, there is nothing legally preventing Trump from releasing his tax information while under audit. Buffett himself is currently being audited, the businessman added.
Buffett's move to refute Trump shows that the candidate can no longer make outrageous claims without being fact-checked. Releasing his personal tax returns was bold move for Buffett, who in the past has criticized the current taxing system by pointing out that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. What's a bolder move, however, is Trump's continual refusal to disclose his own tax records.