A congressional committee fought for and got access to former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, revealing much about his business successes and failures and raising questions about taxpayer privacy.
- President Trump paid $1.1 million in taxes during his time in the White House
- He paid $0 in taxes in 2020—with his hospitality businesses greatly hurt by the closing of the economy during the pandemic.
- The release of his returns by a congressional committee highlights questionable deductions that may open the door to an audit.
- The forced release of his returns begins a debate about whether a president can be forced to reveal his tax returns.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Even though it is not required by law, every major candidate for president in modern history has released his or her tax returns as part of campaigning for the White House—except Donald Trump. He said he would release them, but said the returns were being reviewed, or were being audited and therefore could not be released until the audit is complete.
All through his presidency, there was talk of releasing his returns. Then as part of an investigation into his financial behavior, the House Ways and Means Committee sued to get access to and release his returns. The right was granted by the Supreme Court this week, and a tax committee released a summary report on his returns on Tuesday.
Donald J. Trump paid $1.1 million in federal income taxes in his first three years as president, and paid no taxes in 2020 as his income began to dwindle.
The data shows that he began his time in the White House experiencing large business losses as he had experienced much of his career. In those years, he paid almost nothing in income tax. But things changed in 2018. He and wife Melania reported $24.3 million in adjusted gross income and paid $999,000 in federal tax.
His income was positive the following year as well, reporting $4.4 million in income and paying $133,445 in tax. But in 2020, as the country staggered under the coronavirus pandemic, his finances suffered. Trump reported a loss of $4.8 million and zero income tax.
The big issue for the former president is that the forced release of his returns revealed that no audit of his returns was completed during his time in the White House, even though he was regularly audited in the past. There were a few notable deductions, reported by Bloomberg News, that highlight the potential for an audit. Some of those are…
- $126.5 million in write-offs over five years tied to sales from an entity that didn’t appear to be selling anything,” reports Bloomberg.
- “questionable private jet expenses, large unsubstantiated charitable deductions, and dubious payments to the former president’s children…”
- “a $21.1 million deduction for a conservation easement at Trump’s Seven Springs property in New York’s Westchester County.”
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee that fought to have the returns released argue that it is important for the American people to see the finances of any president, much less one who is being investigated.
Representative Kevin Brady, the committee’s top Republican, says that forcing the disclosure of the former president’s tax information sets a dangerous precedent for taxpayer privacy. He says the power of the congressional tax committee chairs is “nearly unlimited” in light of this new precedent.