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Donald Trump Looks Like a Tax Cheat

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally at International Air Response Hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally at International Air Response Hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona.

Friday was the moment that many Donald Trump watchers have been waiting for nearly seven years: The former president’s taxes were finally released to the public. 

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The taxes arrived at the end of a very long process, and two years after Trump left office.

Unlike virtually everyone who has ever seriously contended for president, Trump refused to release his tax returns when he ran for president in 2016, claiming that he was under audit and could not release them for as long as that was the case. 

Over the course of his presidency, Trump continued to refuse to release the taxes, continuing through his 2020 re-election campaign.

There were legal efforts to force him to release them, while on several occasions, portions of the tax returns were leaked to the media. 

The House Ways and Means Committee requested the tax returns in 2019, after the Democrats took control of the House, leading to a dispute with the executive branch, which was ultimately decided in the courts, albeit not until after the end of Trump’s presidency.

The Justice Department ordered their release last year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Trump camp’s push to block their release, and the House Ways and Means Committee approved their release earlier this month. 

These are not, it’s clear, the original taxes that were in dispute seven years ago; the tax returns released this week cover the returns of Trump, himself, and those of associated business entities between 2015 and 2020. 

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), a Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means Committee, issued a statement following the release of the returns. 

“The materials released today were lawfully obtained by the Ways and Means Committee using its clear legal authority. Chairman Neal requested this tax information to inform our committee’s work on IRS tax enforcement, including the presidential audit program,” Rep. Beyer said. “The findings, already detailed in the committee’s report, show that this program was broken – justifying our legislative purpose, and leading to House passage of legislation to fix the problem on December 22.”

Beyer added that the release had implications that go beyond Trump. 

“These findings underscore the fact that our tax laws are often inequitable, and that enforcement of them is often unjust. Trump was able to bypass even the mandatory IRS presidential audit program for years, but many other wealthy and powerful people evade billions in tax dues every year through more quotidian tax avoidance.”

Donald Trump: Is He a Tax Cheat or Not? 

So what are the highlights? According to the New York Times, there are a few key new revelations, in the thousands of pages released as part of the returns. 

In 2020, the last full year of his presidency, Trump reported no charity donations, although he had vowed to donate his entire salary as president and did so for his first three years in office.

Also, Trump may have had to pay higher taxes as a result of his own 2017 tax reform legislation than would have been the case otherwise. 

The  $1 million in federal taxes he paid on $24 million in income in 2018 represented the majority of the taxes Trump paid during his time as president. This was the result, the Times said, of “$14 million in gains from the sale of an investment his father made in the 1970s” on a housing complex in Brooklyn.

In 2018, Trump received $25.7 million in gains from the sale of some properties that dated back to Fred Trump’s time. 

Also in 2018, Trump posted a loss of about $1 million, “bailing his son Donald Trump Jr. out of a failed business to build prefabricated homes.”

The Times also went into detail about Mazars USA, the firm that had long done Trump’s accounting, cut ties with him earlier this year, stating they could “no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it prepared for the Trump Organization,” the Times said. But the paper reported that Trump had begun pulling away from Mazars in 2020 in favor of a different firm called BKM Sowan Horan.

Donald Trump’s Taxes: Something Doesn’t Look Right

CNN also reported on highlights of the returns. The returns, the network said, “confirm a report issued from the Joint Committee on Taxation that Trump claimed large losses before and throughout his presidency that he carried forward to reduce or practically eliminate his tax burden.” 

The former president also “claimed a large number of questionable items on his tax returns, including eyebrow-raising amounts of interest he claims to have received from loans to his children that the bipartisan committee said could indicate Trump was disguising gifts.” 

Trump, for instance, claimed that he received $18,000 in interest on a loan to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, in 2017. One expert quoted by CNN stated that it’s rare for interest payments to come in at such a round number. 

In addition, DJT Aerospace LLC, the company that operates the former president’s helicopter, claimed a profit of $42,965 in 2017 and posted the same number as its expenses.

“Total expenses equaling total income is a statistical impossibility,” CNN’s expert, former IRS supervisor Martin Sheil, said of that anomaly. 

The ex-president also held foreign bank accounts as president, per the revelations, holding accounts in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and China. In fact, in 2017 he paid more in foreign taxes than in U.S. federal taxes. 

And as was reported earlier this month, the IRS failed to conduct a mandatory audit on Trump’s taxes, as is traditionally required. The only one conducted was of his 2016 taxes before he became president, and it didn’t take place until 2019, which was three years later. 

Trump himself reacted to the release, per the Times. 

Republicans have threatened that they could retaliate when it comes time to demand tax returns of their political opponents. But in the case of presidential candidates other than Trump, they have traditionally released their tax returns. 

“The Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people,” the ex-president said. “The great USA divide will now grow far worse. The Radical Left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember, that is a dangerous two-way street!”

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Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.