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Trump’s tax returns

Written By: - Date published: 2:47 pm, January 2nd, 2023 - 18 comments
Categories: Donald Trump, politicans, tax, us politics - Tags:

One of the mysteries of the ages has now been resolved.  One of the great mysteries along with who killed JFK and is there life on Mars is how wealthy is the orange one.  And now we know.

And it appears that he is not as wealthy as he made out to be.

Shocked I was at that news, I tell you I was shocked.  It shook me to the core that someone for who honesty is an optional extra had been elected to the highest office in America.  And astounded I am that he has a fighting chance of regaining that office.

From the Guardian:

A House of Representatives report released earlier this month analyzed the documents and showed Trump and his wife Melania paid no federal income tax in 2020, the last full year he was in office.

The couple paid $641,931 in federal income taxes in 2015, the year Trump began his campaign for president. They paid $750 in 2016 and 2017, nearly $1m in 2018, $133,445 in 2019 and $0 in 2020, the year Trump unsuccessfully sought re-election.

Such numbers reflect heavy business losses and undermine Trump’s self-perpetuated narrative of commercial wealth and success – a crucial part of his brand during his successful 2016 campaign.

Trump reported bank accounts in Britain, China and Ireland from 2015 to 2017, and from 2018 only reported a bank account in Britain.

During a presidential debate in 2020, Trump said the Chinese account “was closed in 2015, I believe” and insisted: “I closed it before I even ran for president, let alone became president.”

Surprisingly the Supreme Court including Trump’s appointees had previously refused Trump’s application to stop the release.  He must have fumed.  Again from the Guardian:

The US supreme court will allow a congressional committee to receive copies of Donald Trump’s tax returns, ending a three-year battle by the Democratic-led body to see the documents the former president has famously refused to release since his first White House bid.

The court did not accompany its decision with any public comment, but it rejected Trump’s plea for an order that would have prevented the treasury department from giving six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses to the House ways and means committee.

In the dispute over his tax returns, the treasury department had refused to provide the records during Trump’s presidency. But the Biden administration said federal law is clear that the committee has the right to examine any taxpayer’s return, including the president’s.

Lower courts agreed that the committee has broad authority to obtain tax returns and rejected Trump’s claims that it was overstepping and only wanted the documents so they could be made public.

Trump’s income and tax reporting is way different to that of other Presidents.  From RNZ:

In some years, Trump paid a far smaller proportion of his income than other recent presidents. In 2018, he and his wife earned $24.3m (NZ$38.3m) in adjusted gross income. But he paid just under $1m (NZ$1.57m), giving him a tax rate of just 4.1 percent. In America, spouses file together.

In other years, because he reported huge business losses, Trump’s tax burden was actually greater than what he earned on paper. For example, in 2017, he lost money but still paid taxes.

In comparison, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama’s taxable income peaked in 2009, when they took home $5.5m (NZ$8.7m), and paid about 30 percent in taxes. Most of their income came from the sales of Barack’s two books, Dreams from My Father and Audacity of Hope.

As his book sales dwindled, Obama’s taxable income declined considerably – in 2015, the couple earned just $447,880 (NZ$705,364), almost all from his presidential salary, and paid about 18 percent of their income to the IRS.

George W Bush did not write his presidential biography until after he left office – while he was president, he and his wife Laura Bush averaged an income of about $800,000 (NZ$1.25m) a year. About half came from salaries, and the other half came from interest and investments. They had an average tax rate of 27.8 percent.

Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton started off in 1992 making just under $300,000 (NZ$472,468) a year, mostly from salaries, and paying 23.6 percent of their income to tax. In 1996, Hilary’s book helped the couple earn over $1m (NZ$1.57m), but their tax rate actually declined to 18.5 percent.

But we live in a strange world where there are no repercussions for blatant lies.

18 comments on “Trump’s tax returns ”

  1. Thinker 1

    Who was it who said "Beware of stupid people in large groups"?

  2. Visubversa 2

    For all his self lauded business skills, the only $$$$ he actually makes is from the businesses he inherited and what he makes from selling his image as a successful business person. The businesses he actually starts are not successful and are used to run up huge losses to offset against tax.

  3. Maurice 3

    Just what has the release of his recent tax returns done in revealing anythings other than his real level of wealth … and how the wealthy manipulate the tax system for their advantage?

    No "smoking gun" of illegality to be seen?

    The real problem is the precedent now set for the forcing of others tax records to be revealed.

    • Sacha 3.1

      Given that every other president has voluntarily released their records, I am not clear what your worry is.

    • Ghostwhowalksnz 3.2

      Not new precedent for a tax returns for a President.

      Same happened for Nixons tax returns around 1972….they found $476,000 in errors which he had to repay. Roughly $2.5 mill in todays money


      Maurice, you should really check claims from the US right wing echo chambers first , next thing you might be making claims about an 'election red wave'

      • Maurice 3.2.1

        The precedent set is that the Tax returns of anyone in public office are not longer private. Previous Presidents – since about 1970 have voluntarily released their Tax records. Trump chose to not do this and now it is no longe rpossible to make that choice; even after leaving office.

        Individual income tax returns — including those of public figures — are private information, protected by law from unauthorized disclosure. Indeed, the Internal Revenue Service is barred from releasing any taxpayer information whatsoever, except to authorized agencies and individuals.

        Now the Ways and Means Committee can demand the release of any public figures tax returns.

        That is the precedent which has been set.

        Any guesses as to whether this will be weaponised and used selectively by BOTH parties in the future?

        • lprent

          It won't worry people who have nothing to hide? In other words previous presidents since 1970.

          For that matter that ability of congress to demand tax has been enshrined in legislation for decades. It is part of the congressional oversight of the other branches of government in exactly the same way that they can pry into judges, departments, military, etc. They can do it to anyone in the US. That is because, like our parliament, congress is the ultimate court in the US.

          Reuters did an adequate article on the process and underlying legal reasoning.

          The Ways and Means panel had told the Supreme Court in a legal filing that siding with Trump would harm the constitutional authority of a co-equal branch of government "by in effect preventing Congress from completing any investigation involving a former president whenever there are allegations that the investigation was politically motivated."

          The panel in its request invoked a federal law that empowers its chairman to request any person's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). House Democrats have said they need to see Trump's tax returns to assess whether the IRS is properly auditing presidential returns and to gauge whether new legislation is needed.

          In its filing, the committee told the justices that IRS policy "does not address what to do regarding a president who, like former President Trump, owned hundreds of business entities, had inordinately complex returns, used aggressive tax avoidance strategies and allegedly had ongoing audits."

          Incidentally, NZ has been doing Register of members’ interests since 2005. That doesn't appear to have been weaponized. I'm pretty sure that if the need ever arose, then parliament itself would include MP taxes into that. They will probably do it without too much fuss. All it would take is a dodgy member arousing public outrage.

          BTW: There is no automatic privacy on tax returns in NZ. There can't be. Tax returns are often direct evidence in court cases. What protections that are there are in the Tax Administration Act and the Privacy Act. Those protect people who are not of interest to IRD or a number of other agencies via legislation.

          Tax returns are accessible under various circumstances to police, SFO, customs, security agencies, military, WINZ, and probably a host of other agencies through various laws.

          That is before looking at what Inland Revenue can collect about you from banks, credit agencies, etc.

          Frankly, thinking that there is an automatic right to privacy on taxes is kind of daft. After all the IRD will use these for enforcement in open court if it needs to.

        • Ghostwhowalksnz

          Nixons tax returns was requested by the House committee from the IRS who then reviewed it and found substantial errors

          The link I gave confirms it

          But heres another giving the report of the Comitteee

          Congress Examines Nixon's Tax Returns [Watergate Affair]. United States Congress. Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation. Examination of President Nixon's Tax Returns for 1969 Through 1972. Prepared for the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation by Its Staff, April 3, 1974

    • Descendant Of Smith 3.3

      Seems pretty clear the only reason his tax records were gathered was because he was the President. Not too many people get to be President so I can't see how it is a precedent for anyone else.

      The courts also ruled it was legal to obtain these.

      If there is a concern it was that for some reason which hasn't been outlined IRS did not audit his annual tax returns as they are supposed to do – why is that? Particularly as a couple of businesses the income and expenses exactly matched to the cent – that is highly unlikely to happen in real life.

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    Mango Mussolini when it comes down to it is a mirror for inhabitants of the Yoo Ess Ayy. What do they see when the bloated opportunist, assembled in grotesque mockery of the human form squints back at them?

  5. adam 5

    So he's not in the pay of the Russians – who would have thought it.

  6. Mike the Lefty 6

    I would wager that his published returns are not the full story.

    Like most wealthy crooks, he would have bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or some similar tax haven to hide his wealth.

  7. georgecom 7

    Trump – blowarse successful businessman who has made billions when it comes time to try and get into office, make some big public noise or get a bank loan. Loser of millions and millions when it comes time to pay his taxes. I guess whichever is true, the blowarse moniker applies. Dishonest Donald.

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