Trump’s Tax Returns: What You Need to Know
Brooke Berardo '24
On September 27, unbeknownst to the country and the President himself, the New York Times leaked information that has been sought after since President Donald Trump first ran in 2016 - his tax returns. It has been rumored that Trump has avoided paying taxes ever since his refusal to release his tax returns during his 2016 campaign, and those rumors have only escalated with this year’s campaign for re-election. With the new information on his taxes now publicized, there’s been heated discourse from both sides of the election about what this means going forward.
According to the New York Times, Trump reported millions in losses, only paid $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and has accumulated over $300 million in debt that will come due in the coming years.
In ten of the past fifteen years, Trump has seemingly paid no income taxes due to large losses that offset any profit he may have made. The analysis from the Times shows that his businesses are struggling and notes that during his first two years in the White House, he generated $73 million in personal wealth from authoritarian countries like Turkey and the Philippines, despite pledging to stay away from foreign deals as president.
The report also mentions various business expenses, including $70,000 to his hair stylist and over $95,000 to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, for other cosmetology services. It is also worth noting that between 2010 and 2018, Trump deducted $26 million in consulting fees for business expenses. This may seem normal when considering that Trump was a businessman before he was president, but when analysts compared Ivanka Trump’s financial forms and her reported consulting income, the figures matched. This means that the consulting fees may have been a way to transfer large funds to members of his family.
The IRS has been contacted by various Republicans, asking for an investigation into how this information was leaked in the first place and calling for prosecution and punishment for those involved.
In lieu of this leak, Democratic candidate Joe Biden released his 2019 tax returns only hours before the first presidential debate. His returns show that he paid approximately $300,000 in income taxes, resulting in a 31% taxation on his income last year. Biden has even taken advantage of the newfound information on Trump to sell stickers that say “I Paid More Income Taxes Than Donald Trump.” He even added a ‘Trump Tax Calculator’ to his website captioned, “Do you pay more or less in federal income taxes than our ‘billionaire’ President? Use this calculator to find out.”
Trump’s taxes have been brought up a number of times in both the presidential and vice presidential debates. When Trump vowed to show his tax returns during the debate, Biden sarcastically commented, “When? Inshallah?”. Many were surprised at Biden’s use of this Arabic term that, when used informally, can mean that “a hope or statement is too good to be true.”
Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris took a dig at Trump for his taxes in the recent vice presidential debate, stating that, “It’d be really good to know who the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief owes money to, because the American people have a right to know what is influencing the president’s decisions, and is he making those decisions on the best interests of the American people… or self-interest?” Vice President Mike Pence dismissed this comment, instead claiming that “the American people have a president who’s a businessman, a job creator, [who’s] paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes - payroll taxes, property taxes, [and] created tens of thousands of American jobs.” This reflects Trump’s own denial of the tax leak as “fake news,” and claims that he paid “millions of dollars” in taxes in 2016 and 2017.
In the most recent update on Trump’s taxes, it was determined by a federal appeals court that the Manhattan district attorney now has permission to obtain the President’s tax records. The decision is being relayed to the Supreme Court, further delaying the release of his returns. Trump and his lawyers have already seen defeat in higher courts, considering that in July, the Supreme Court rejected the lawyers’ arguments that Trump is immune from prosecution due to his position as president. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s new argument that the subpoena to his accounting firm for his financial and tax forms was issued in bad faith, as laid out in Trump and his team’s 35-page opinion on the case. Issued by a three-judge panel, the unanimous ruling concluded that they “have considered all of the President's remaining contentions on appeal and have found in them no basis for reversal.”
The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., has agreed not to enforce his subpoena immediately; however, this ruling is a significant setback for the President, who has fought to protect his financial records from investigators. The lower court's decision will remain on hold in order for Trump's attorneys to appeal to the Supreme Court. It is very likely that this case will not be resolved before the election in November.