Trump has not tried to close loopholes that help him, NYT columnist says

NYT's Jim Stewart: Trump hasn't suggested closing one loophole that benefits him

Donald Trump needs to explain why he has not pledged to close the same tax loopholes that benefit him, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist said Monday.

The New York Times' Jim Stewart said he was lucky that he was sitting down or he would have fallen over in learning about Trump's massive tax breaks and his reported loss of nearly $1 billion in 1995. The newspaper reported those tax returns on Saturday, saying Trump's massive loss could potentially shield up to 18 years of personal income from taxes.

Stewart wants to know why Trump has not "proposed to close one [tax] loophole that benefits him" but has attacked "carried interest, hedge fund managers, Wall Street executives — who he says take advantage of [tax breaks]."

Stewart told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that Donald Trump is not a genius for minimizing his taxes, as advisor Rudy Giuliani contended in his defense.

"Genius and a billion dollar loss do not belong in the same sentence, I am sorry," said Stewart, who writes the "Common Sense" column for The Times.

Stewart explained that even if Trump's tax breaks were legal, he still needs to explain his tax record and release his returns. Trump has so far refused to release his returns, saying he cannot because they are under audit, even though there is no legal precedent that prevents him from doing so. Trump has used his business acumen and familiarity with the tax code as key points of appeal to voters.

Trump "did not have to take those losses out of obligation to shareholders" he added, contradicting what Trump surrogates have been saying in the Republican presidential nominee's defense.

In his column "How Donald Trump turned the tax code into a giant tax shelter," Stewart wrote that even if Trump was correct when he said that he only took advantage of what the law allows, the loss of a billion dollars undermines his claim of being an astute and successful businessman. That claim has been central in this campaign for president.

Stewart concluded by saying in his article that "at the broadest level, Mr. Trump's tax avoidance undermines the entire tax system, which rests on the foundation that every citizen pays a fair share."