Many people care a lot about Donald Trump's taxes, but I don't... nor have I ever really cared about any other candidate's tax returns. It's hard to imagine Trump getting away with illegal tax avoidance for decades, so I just assume that there's nothing interesting to see in his returns. Similarly, I doubt that the Clintons are illegally avoiding taxes -- the Clinton Global Initiative is basically a huge scam, but it doesn't break any tax laws. The big to-do about Trump's use of net operating losses to offset future earnings is a complete non-story.
"If someone has a $20 million gain in one year and a $10 million loss in the second year, that person should be treated the same as someone who had $5 million in each of the two years," says Alan Viard, a tax specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, who like all the other experts, seemed somewhat surprised that this was not obvious.
"There are definitely tax provisions narrowly targeted to various industries that you could take issue with," says Ron Kovacev, a tax partner at Steptoe and Johnson. "The NOL is not one of them."
I mean, the Times story is true as far as it goes: Losing $900 million dollars may save you $315 million or so on future or past taxes. But astute readers will have noticed that it is not actually smart financial strategy to lose $900 million in order to get out of paying $315 million to the IRS. Most of us would rather have the other $585 million than a tax bill of $0. ...
If Trump managed to pay no taxes for years, the most likely way he did this was by losing sums much vaster than the unpaid taxes. This is fair, it is right, it is good tax policy.