Did Trump break the law with his taxes? How he got away with paying so little

The House Ways and Means Committee has finally released six years of Donald Trump’s federal tax returns in one of its last acts under Democratic scrutiny.

The ex-president’s personal and professional statements, partially redacted to conceal sensitive information, cover 2015 to 2020, from Mr Trump walking down the golden escalator of Trump Tower in New York for the first time to announce his intention to run for president until his failure to secure a second term shortly after recovering from Covid-19, sparking the false allegations of voter fraud that would lead to the deadly assault on the US Capitol by his supporters in following January.

The sheer complexity of the former property mogul’s business empire means it will take time to sift through the nearly 6,000 pages of figures in detail, but what is immediately clear is that he has actively pursued legal but creative accounting strategies to ensure that its federal tax contributions were kept as low as possible.

While Mr. Trump paid $641,931 in federal income tax in 2015, he paid just $750 in 2016 and 2017 and none in 2020.

He paid nearly $1 million in 2018 and $133,445 in 2019 but, in proportion to his earnings, these are small sums.

That first figure, for example, is just 4% of the $24.3 million in earnings he reported that year, at a time when an average American worker would have expected to pay 13%, according to the calculations. from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

As the tax revelations published by The New York Times in September 2020, which suggested he had paid no taxes in 11 of the previous 18 years and had to repay hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, the new documents reinforce the impression that the nebulous real estate portfolio of Mr. Trump, made up of luxury homes, hotels and golf resorts around the world, has been steadily losing money since entering politics.

They also find that he still earns income from his time hosting NBC. The apprentice and license his name commercially.

There was no immediately apparent wrongdoing evidence in the new documents, but they find that Mr. Trump uses strategies such as carrying losses forward from one year to the next in order to reduce his tax liability, with a loss of $700 million suffered in 2009 at its peak. of the Great Recession apparently the source of much of this.

That said, the House committee points out in its report accompanying the release a pattern of what it considers questionable claims worthy of further investigation, such as business expenses and charitable deductions made without the necessary documentary evidence for shore up, what could turn out to be “disguised gifts” to his adult children Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka and the crafty ones capitalizing on the real estate write-offs available in his native New York.

Mr. Trump claiming $7.4 million in tax credits during his 2017 presidency for the renovation of the controversial Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, an area in which allowances are given for building restoration work history, may also warrant further investigation, the committee suggests.

The statement also revealed that Mr Trump had foreign bank accounts in China, the UK, Ireland and St Maarten, and that during his first year as president, in 2017, he had paid more taxes abroad than in the United States.

The 45th commander-in-chief has already responded angrily to the release of the documents, saying the House committee “should never have done it” and that the U.S. Supreme Court “should never have approved” the decision, as it did in November.

He warned that the release of his tax returns would “lead to horrible things for so many people” and lead to “far worse” divisions in the United States.

“The radical left Democrats have everything armed, but remember, it’s a dangerous two-way street,” the ex-president warned, while insisting that the returns show he’s been ” proudly successful” and only serve to illustrate how he “was able to use depreciation and various other tax deductions as an incentive to create thousands of jobs and beautiful structures and businesses”.

The Ways and Means Committee is unlikely to pursue questions about Mr. Trump’s financial affairs once the 118th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2023, and the panel falls into Republican hands, given that the GOP denounced the release as an invasion of the former president’s privacy. .

However, the fact that Democrats retained the upper house of Congress following last month’s midterm elections – when so many right-wing candidates hand-picked by Mr. Trump himself failed at the final hurdle – means the Senate Finance Committee could still pursue alleged improprieties.

Mr Trump’s tax filings have been an ongoing saga since he first announced his candidacy seven years ago.

He first promised to release them in the interest of transparency, as every president has done voluntarily since Jimmy Carter in 1977, only to then backtrack on the pledge and insist that they were audited by the ‘IRS.

We know that was, in fact, true — despite a post-Watergate rule requiring mandatory auditing of statements by all presidents and vice presidents every year, a failure that raises questions about why the IRS neglected to do so. to act and if his resources are sufficient – ​​even if this fact would not have prevented him from freeing them.

The issue gained further momentum after the 2018 midterm elections when Democrats regained control of the House and Richard Neal became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, making a formal request to the then Treasurer , Steve Mnuchin, for release of Mr. Trump’s documents in April 2019, which was denied.

It sparked a long series of court battles, with Democrats citing a 1924 law allowing congressional tax commissions to obtain tax returns from any individual, which only ended with the Supreme Court’s final ruling in November. .

“A president is no ordinary taxpayer,” Mr. Neal said in a statement on Friday.

“They wield power and influence unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility.

The release of the returns finally puts an end to his pursuit but, as always when it comes to Donald Trump, one suspects this is not the end at all, merely a new beginning.

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