Joe Biden’s campaign seized on a fresh line of attack hours to the Democratic presidential nominee’s first debate with President Donald Trump, accusing the Republican incumbent of gaming the system to avoid paying his fair share of taxes.
Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire who is seeking reelection in the Nov. 3 vote, paid only $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, after years of reporting heavy losses from his businesses to offset hundreds of millions of dollars in income, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing tax-return data.
The Times also reported that Trump paid no federal income tax in 10 of the previous 15 years through 2017, despite receiving $427.4 million through 2018 from his reality television program and other endorsement and licensing deals.
Within hours of the report, Biden’s campaign released a video listing the thousands of dollars in income tax typically paid by an elementary school teacher, firefighter, construction manager and registered nurse, before contrasting Trump’s reported $750 bill in 2017.
(Watch the video:
The campaign also started selling stickers that say, “I Paid More In Taxes Than Donald Trump.”
Jared Bernstein, one of Biden’s top economic advisers, said the report highlighted the need to simplify the tax code and make people like Trump pay their fair share.
“The vast majority of us pay taxes and get on with life. But the richer you are, the more tax lawyers you employ, the more complex you can make your holdings – all of this can, as the piece shows reduce your tax liability to zero,” Bernstein said on Twitter.
Trump has dismissed the report as “fake news.” On Monday, he tweeted that he had paid “many millions of dollars in taxes” but was entitled to depreciation and tax credits and was “extremely under-leveraged” in terms of his debt and assets.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany described the report as a hit job that was straight out of the Democratic playbook. “We’ve seen this play out before … purported tax information dropping the eve of a debate. They tried this in 2016 – it didn’t work,” she told Fox Business Network.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told MSNBC the president’s reported debts raised questions of national security.
Trump and Biden will square off in their first debate in Cleveland, Ohio, today , five weeks before the election.
Polls show Biden leading Trump nationally and in a number of key battleground states.
“I am looking very forward to the debate,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday.
The 90-minute televised debate is likely to focus in part on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans, and his push to fill the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the high court.