What do Donald Trump's US tax returns show?

Newly released tax returns for former President Donald Trump have shed light on his business losses, complicated tax set-ups and tax payments during his White House years.

The documents confirmed that Mr Trump paid no federal taxes in 2020 and only $750 (£622) in 2016 and 2017. He paid close to $1m in 2018, however.

Mr Trump criticised the disclosure, warning that it will deepen the US political divide and adding that the returns “show how proudly successful I have been and how I have been able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive for creating thousands of jobs and magnificent structures and enterprises.” (1)

The newly released documents include tax returns and related documents for Donald Trump, the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust and seven corporate entities. They represent only a fraction of the former president’s over 400 separate business interests.

The records also show that the Internal Revenue Service - the US federal entity responsible for collecting taxes - did not audit Mr Trump during the first years of his presidency, only beginning in 2019 after Democrats sought to gain access to his tax records.

The finding led to criticism from Democrats. Don Beyer, a member of the committee that oversaw the record release, said that the IRS’ auditing system was broken and that “Congress has so much work to do to make tax enforcement in this country fairer.”

In a memo cited in an earlier report, the IRS noted that “it is not possible to obtain the resources available to examine all potential issues” associated with Mr Trump’s hundreds of business interests.

(1) Successful in what, exactly … :017: What “jobs, magnificent structures and enterprises” … among the 400 (unspecified) separate business interests … :question:

What they do show is actually that Trump treats taxpaying as a sport and that he is clever at minimising tax. Trump and his wife paid little or no tax some years, consistently offsetting millions of dollars in reported earnings by claiming even bigger losses.

A lot of his losses which reduced his income were gifts to his children disguised as loans (otherwise they would have attracted tax) there is also a dodgy $US21 million deduction Trump made on money he paid to settle fraud claims over his defunct Trump University as well as other sus loss claims.

The only exception was when he paid about a million dollars in tax on the sale of an inherited property.

Even more interesting was that the US IRS didn’t carry out the mandatory audit of his accounts as they have for every President since Nixon (I think - since about 1977 anyway)

As Kerry Packer once said ,“Anyone who pays more tax than they need to is a fool” and Trump has shown he is no fool.

Trump had a bank account in China

During a 2020 presidential debate, Trump was asked about having a bank account in China. He said he closed it before he began his campaign for the White House four years earlier.

“The bank account was in 2013. It was closed in 2015, I believe,” Trump said. “I was thinking about doing a deal in China. Like millions of other people, I was thinking about it. I decided not to do it.”

The tax returns contradict that account. Trump reported a bank account in China in his returns for 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The returns show accounts in other foreign countries including the UK, Ireland and St Martin in the Caribbean. By 2018, Trump had apparently closed all his overseas accounts other than the one in the UK, home to one of his flagship golf properties.

The returns do not detail the amount of money held in those accounts.

No reported charitable giving in 2020

In the final year of his presidency, Trump reported making no charitable donations. That was in contrast to the prior two years, when Trump reported about $500,000 (£414,060) worth of donations. He reported donating $1.1m in 2016 and $1.8m in 2017.

It is unclear if any of the figures include his pledge to donate his $400,000 presidential salary back to the US government.

Money from the arts world

Trump collected a $77,808 annual pension from the Screen Actors Guild and a $6,543 pension in 2017 from another film and TV union, and reported acting residuals as high as $14,141 in 2015, according to the tax returns.

Trump has made cameo appearances in various movies, notably Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but his biggest on-screen success came with his reality TV shows The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice.

No “magnificent structures and enterprises” mentioned.

The partially redacted returns from 2015 to 2020 amount to nearly 6,000 pages of what a preliminarily study appears to show as legal but creative accounting strategies to keep his federal tax contributions as low as possible.

An accompanying report by the committee points to what it considers a pattern of questionable claims regarding professional expenses, charitable deductions, what may be “disguised gifts” to his adult children, and canny use of real estate write-offs in New York.

Standard practices for a “shyster” like Trump … :roll_eyes:

These are tax returns and there is no knowing what the actual accounts hide. I hope they do a deep dive audit on every single one of his “businesses”. You have to wonder whether half the depreciated assets even exist. Has he been depreciating his own brand?

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But Edward McCaffery, a tax law professor at the University of Southern California, told AFP it looks like Trump gave that money away. Daniel Shaviro, a taxation professor at the New York University School of Law, concurred.

“He reported charitable contributions for his years as president that were made in cash and that exceeded the amount of his presidential salary,” Shaviro said in a December 28 email. “Also, since money is fungible, it really doesn’t matter which money he contributed.”

The report does not specify where the contributions went. But for the majority of his presidency, Trump announced quarterly gifts of around $100,000.

As always with Trump’s finances, nothing is clear-cut.

It seems that Trump did claim a salary but then, allegedly, gave money away to the value of that salary.

That money could have come from, for example, any of his loss-generating tax-avoidance businesses.

The much-publicised donations may have been used to obscure ferocious departmental budget cuts, e.g:

($1.6bn) worth of cuts to the department that funds it.

White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, announced the donation at a press briefing on Monday, handing a $78k cheque to interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, who looks after US national parks and monuments.

The donation comes after the Trump administration announced budget cuts of 11.7 per cent – worth roughly $2 billion – to the Department of the Interior (DOI).

Telegraph Travel revealed last week how some national monuments – including Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration House and Benjamin Franklin’s home and print shop – may be forced to close because of a federal hiring freeze.

Trump’s budget cuts are likely to exacerbate the recruitment freeze and could also spell the end of the National Heritage Area programme, which was initiated to help preserve historic sites such as Niagara Falls.

So … Trump making use of smoke and mirrors … :man_shrugging: