The major takeaways from the release, according to CNN, are that Donald Trump claimed “questionable items” on his tax returns, including massive amounts of interest that he claimed on loans to his adult children. They also revealed that Trump held foreign bank accounts while president, including accounts in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and China. In 2017, he even paid more in foreign taxes than U.S. taxes.
In addition, Trump did not report any charitable donations in 2020, his final year in office, which indicates that he didn’t follow through that year on his pledge to always donate his presidential salary to a different salary. Donald Trump was less able to deduct from his own tax bill- as a direct result of the tax reform bill he signed in 2017.
Subsequent reporting has discovered something else: Trump, despite his eligibility, appears to have not collected Social Security benefits while president.
“The 76-year-old former president is not collecting Social Security, despite paying into the system via self-employment tax,” Fox Business reported after the tax returns were released. “Americans can file for benefits when they turn 62. The payment increases every year you delay collecting until age 70 when the benefit payment maxes out.”
There is one possible reason for that.
“To become benefit eligible, you need to work 10 years (40 quarters) at a job covered by the Social Security system, including self-employment, and earn at least $1,640 per quarter in 2023. The minimum earnings vary by year. It’s possible Trump may be ineligible for Social Security because much of his income has historically come from investing instead of ‘working,’” Fox Business said.
“In the two years before he became president (2015 and 2016), Trump earned $14,141 (2015) and $978 (2016) in W-2 income. Trump reported a net loss from personal businesses in 2015, meaning he did not pay self-employment tax that year, but he did pay self-employment social security and Medicare tax in 2016 when he earned $8.8 million from personal businesses.”
Social Security Under Donald Trump
There wasn’t much change to Social Security policy during Trump’s presidency. Liberal groups frequently wrote of a “Trump plan to defund Social Security,” mostly in reference to a proposal to delay the payroll tax that funds the program. But that plan was not ever implemented.
After it wasn’t much of a contested political issue in the Trump presidency and the early part of the Biden one, Social Security came up frequently in the 2022 midterm elections. Some Republican candidates talked about wanting to change how Social Security works, or even bring it into discretionary spending, while Democrats warned that Social Security and Medicare would not be safe if the GOP took over Congress. However, there wasn’t much in terms of specific policy proposals for shoring up the program by the Democrats.
There were several proposals in the last Congress for expanding or shoring up Social Security, including Rep. John Larson (D-CT)’s Social Security 2100 Act: A Sacred Trust and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Social Security Expansion Act. Neither proposal gained much traction in the previous Congress, and would appear dead on arrival in the new, divided Congress.
Meanwhile, the main Social Security trust fund is currently on pace to lose the ability to pay out full benefits in 2035, according to an official report last summer.
A proposal by the Republican Study Committee was to raise the main Social Security retirement age to 70. However, even beyond the uncertainty over who will end up leading the House Republicans, it’s not clear if the new Congress would prioritize such a proposal and even if they did if the votes are there for such reforms.
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.