US President Donald Trump reportedly claimed $US70,000 ($100,000) in haircuts and styling as part of millions in business expenses that have helped reduce his federal tax bill to just a few hundred dollars.
The NY Times reported on Monday (Australian time) that Mr Trump paid just $US750 ($1070) in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and paid no income tax in 10 of the past 15 years.
That was despite Mr Trump receiving $US427.4 million ($607 million) in 2018 from his reality television program and other endorsement and licensing deals.
Mr Trump was able to minimise his tax bill by reporting heavy losses and massive expenses across his business empire.
According to the bombshell report, Mr Trump claimed more than $US70,000 in hairstyling costs when he was hosting his reality TV show The Apprentice. He also claimed $US100,000 ($142,000) for his daughter Ivanka’s hair and makeup.
He also claimed millions in businesses losses – including $US47.4 million ($67 million) in 2018, despite claiming income of at least $US434.9 million ($616 million) in a financial disclosure that year. According to the data, Mr Trump’s golf courses lost $315.6 million ($447 million) and his Washington DC hotel lost $55.5 million.
Mr Trump is also said to owe hundreds of millions in loans.
The disclosure of previously private tax information came little more than a month before the November 3 election between Mr Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
Democrats were quick to seize on the report to paint Mr Trump as a tax dodger and raise questions about his carefully groomed image as a savvy businessman.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter to ask Americans to raise their hands if they paid more in federal income tax than the President.
Mr Trump dismissed the report as “total fake news”, telling a White House media briefing that: “I pay a lot, and I pay a lot in state income taxes.”
But, he repeatedly refused to answer questions about how much he has paid in federal taxes and walked out to shouted questions from a CNN journalist on the topic.
In a statement to the newspaper, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organisation, said Mr Trump had paid millions of dollars in personal taxes in the past decade.
Mr Trump is the first US president in modern times to refuse to release his tax records, saying he will do so once a disputed audit by the country’s Internal Revenue Service is complete.
The Times said it had obtained tax-return data covering over two decades for Mr Trump and companies within his business organisation. It did not have information about his personal returns from 2018 or 2019.
Mr Trump is embroiled in a decade-long IRS audit over a $US72.9 million ($103 million) tax refund he claimed.
He is also in a legal battle with New York City prosecutors and congressional Democrats seeking to obtain his returns.
If the IRS rules against him, he could have to pay over $US100 million ($142 million), according to the newspaper.
Mr Trump told Sunday’s briefing he was willing to release his tax returns once he was no longer under audit by the IRS, which he said “treats me badly”.
He has also previously indicated he prefers to minimise his tax bill, saying in a 2016 presidential debate that made him “smart”.