During their first debate in September, Mr. Trump said that he had paid “millions of dollars” in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, even though his tax returns show he had not.
At the same time, he also justified why his bills were so small compared with those of average Americans. “It was the tax laws,” he said. “I don’t want to pay tax.”
“Before I came here, I was a private developer,” he said, adding, “Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws, and that’s what it is.”
Indeed, over the years, Mr. Trump has taken advantage of tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the real estate industry.
Mr. Trump has also accused Mr. Biden of failing to advance his agenda during his nearly half-century as a public servant. But during the Obama presidency, Republicans repeatedly thwarted attempts to tilt the tax system away from higher earners. In 2010, Mr. Obama had wanted to end Bush-era tax cuts for couples with incomes of more than $250,000, but Republicans balked, and he gave in to their demands as part of a compromise.
The next year, another plan by Mr. Obama to increase taxes on the wealthy was derided as “class warfare” by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. And the year after that, Senate Republicans blocked Mr. Obama’s proposal that the superrich pay at least 30 percent, a plan that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, dismissed as a “political gimmick.” Republicans have gone on to drop their rhetoric about fiscal discipline as the national debt has soared under Mr. Trump.
“Listen, the only people truly better off than they were four years ago are the billionaires who got Trump’s tax cuts,” Mr. Obama said in Orlando. He and other surrogates have also highlighted a Times report about more than $188,000 in taxes that Mr. Trump paid from 2013 to 2015 out of a previously undisclosed Chinese bank account maintained by the Trump Organization.