Trump’s Tax Returns Revealed. They Are A Disaster

Donald Trump paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years, and just $750 in 2016, the year he transformed the US presidency into a high stakes version of his reality TV show persona.

In 2017, Trump paid the same amount he paid the previous year — just $750.

The records, obtained by The New York Times, suggest Trump’s boasts of superhuman business acumen are largely fictitious — a figment of his own imagination and a product of delusions of grandeur, self-deception, or, more likely, both.

Contrary to the grandiose narrative he sold to the public, to the IRS Trump is a man who reports “chronic” (to quote the Times) losses which he leans on “aggressively” to avoid paying taxes.

The Times is in possession of what it says are more than two decades worth of Trump’s tax return data, including information on his own finances as well as those of “hundreds” of associated companies. The information covers his first two years in office, but does not include personal returns for 2018 and 2019.

The inescapable conclusion, the Times says, is that “Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life”.

The president made some $428 million from “The Apprentice” and associated licensing and endorsement deals, money which was subsequently plowed into golf courses which sound like black holes. The Times says those investments “devoured cash”.

Especially notable is the stark contrast between the revenue figures reported in his annual financial disclosures and data on profits, which the Times now has. In 2018, Trump’s financial disclosures showed he made more than $430 million. His tax records, on the other hand, show a bottom-line loss of $47.4 million.

There are question marks throughout. For example, general and administrative expenses at his Bedminster property jumped fivefold over just one year (2016-2017) with no explanation.

This does not, the Times emphasizes, appear to be a case of a savvy businessman employing guile and a mastery of tax loopholes to save money. Rather, the returns indicate something far more pedestrian. “He is simply pouring more money into many businesses than he is taking out”, the Times notes, adding that “most” of Trump’s core businesses are losing millions, “if not tens of millions” year in, and year out.

Over the next half-decade, some $300 million in loans come due. Trump is personally responsible for all of them.

The data is rife with conflicts of interest vis-à-vis the presidency and perhaps most damning of all for the man who promised to put “America first” is the fact that while Trump paid the US just $750 in 2017, he or his companies paid $15,598 in Panama, $145,400 in India, and $156,824 in the Philippines.

Make no mistake, this is an exhaustive investigative endeavor. Try as he may, Trump will have a difficult time with this. Consider the following passage from the Times explaining the scope of the inquiry:

The Times examined and analyzed the data from thousands of individual and business tax returns for 2000 through 2017, along with additional tax information from other years. The trove included years of employee compensation information and records of cash payments between the president and his businesses, as well as information about ongoing federal audits of his taxes. This article also draws upon dozens of interviews and previously unreported material from other sources, both public and confidential. 

All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it. While most of the tax data has not previously been made public, The Times was able to verify portions of it by comparing it with publicly available information and confidential records previously obtained by The Times.

As in-depth as the investigation is, it does have limits, the Times notes. There is no new information about payoffs to Stephanie Clifford, for instance.

There is, however, a “full accounting” of transactions related to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump made $2.3 million from the event personally, and as the Times points out, it was “made possible, at least in part, by the Agalarov family, who would later help set up the infamous 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials seeking ‘dirt’ on [Hillary] Clinton and a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin”.

The key to Trump’s tax “success” is quite simple, really. He takes money extracted from his name and celebrity, puts it into loss-making enterprises, and then cites those losses to absolve himself of the responsibility to pay taxes.

Some $1 billion in losses incurred during the early 90s (as previously reported by the Times) helped shield Trump up through 2005, around the time revenue from the “The Apprentice” started to roll in.

With the carry forward exhausted, Trump was left with no choice. He had to pay taxes. The $70.1 million Trump paid from 2005 through 2007 is described by the Times as the first substantial federal income taxes Trump paid in his entire life. Not surprisingly, he eventually asked for that back. And received it. The refund ($72.9 million) is now the subject of an audit.

His golf courses are, in two words, a disaster. Since 2000, they have produced a combined loss of $315.6 million, according to the Times. His Washington hotel: A loser. To the tune of $55.5 million through 2018. Trump Corporation, his real estate services business: A loser too, logging $134 million in losses over the past two decades.

It goes on, and on, and on. The Times’s exclusive reporting, out Sunday evening, could be a small book. It spans thousands upon thousands of words, and the paper indicates it is by no means done with Trump. Sunday’s novella is merely an “overview”, the Times says. “Additional articles will be published in the coming weeks”.

In one particularly poignant passage, the Times describes what Trump’s accountants were up to in 2015 as he made the campaign rounds regaling the public with tales of his fabulous wealth and legendary business prowess. I’ll leave you with one final excerpt, presented without further comment:

After tabulating all the profits and losses from Mr. Trump’s various endeavors on Form 1040, the accountants came to Line 56, where they had to enter the total income tax the candidate was required to pay. They needed space for only a single figure.


For Mr. Trump, that bottom line must have looked familiar. It was the fourth year in a row that he had not paid a penny of federal income taxes.


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25 thoughts on “Trump’s Tax Returns Revealed. They Are A Disaster

  1. Like to be fair though, if the rules of the system say you can avoid paying something by creating losses. Than wouldn’t anyone who didn’t do that be dumb? Just talking about the logic of it, not about any words that have ever come out of his mouth.

    1. He’s a failure — that’s the message here. Read The Times article. You take advantage of loopholes, sure. And you hire great accountants, obviously. You might even employ some marginally shady tactics. But you obviously don’t go out and squander tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollars on failure after failure after failure for the sole purpose of creating a tax loss carry forward. You might do something akin to that once, with a little bit of money, under some very specific circumstances, and you might do what he’s allegedly accused of doing by inflating or understating the value of assets to manipulate your tax bill, but nobody’s strategy is to consistently fail at everything they do. That happens because you don’t know what you’re doing.

      1. I do hear you, but you make it sound like there’s no reason to spend hundreds of millions in order to be tax efficient. If you knew you had a large tax bill coming from one business, it would make sense to take that money and use it to do some large upgrade/investment in a failing business. Assuming there is actually reasons to keeping the losing businesses. For example if you have a building not generating a profit, upgrading all the infrastructure within the building would add value to the failing business and would be incredibly tax efficient. On a smaller scale, if you are going to have a normal size tax bill, then buy a new computer every year under a sole proprietorship and now you have a new computer and a smaller tax bill. Like am I wrong with my logic there?

        1. Have you read The Times piece and, perhaps even more importantly, their previous investigative reports on the money from his father and Trump’s massive loss-making trials and tribulations from the late 80s and early 90s? If you haven’t read those, in their entirety, I encourage you to do so. There is only one way to describe his business career. These laborious efforts to explain away the obvious in the face of voluminous evidence and mounting investigations long ago passed the threshold into the absurd. I mean, at a certain point, when an outlet like The Times spends years and years explaining every conceivable detail (including answering the questions you’re posing dozens of times and from every conceivable angle) and puts it out for the public to read, if people don’t take the time to read it and digest it, then the burden is on the public. Sure, it’ll take you an hour (at least) to read all three of the investigative pieces I’m referring to here, but that’s the price of knowledge. It took me a month to read Piketty’s latest, but it’s necessary.

          1. No worries, and I mean, if you don’t want to read those investigative pieces, don’t read them. It’s your hour/two hours and you might well have something more important to do. I respect that. I just want to make sure that, in cases like these, people understand that The Times is offering the public the closest thing to first-hand information that you’re going to get short of actually reading the returns yourself. And, obviously, The Times consults tax experts when they write something like they did on Sunday and also last year and in 2018 for similar pieces. Sometimes, I have an informational edge on mainstream media — usually in matters related to markets. But I’m never going to have dozens of people feeding me something like the president’s hidden tax returns. So my point here isn’t to be abrasive, it’s just to say: “Look folks, read my summary to get the gist, but please, if you do have the time, read the original reporting too, because by god, it is good stuff”. That’s all I’m trying to say.

          2. The worst person damaged in this story of Trump being broke is poor Melania.

            Poor Trump. He can’t even pay the settlement from the prenup.

        2. I suppose you’re correct, as far as tax laws go.

          But it may be a problem for him or some folks over at Deustche Bank if the numbers on the tax returns are wildly different from those on lhis loan applications.

          Might that be why some prosecutors are focusing on that? Dunno.

          But, the base will not care.

  2. What I read in the Times piece has no mention of charitable contributions by Trump. I would wager that the sum is equal to the taxes he paid…ZERO!

    1. I thought the same thing. He hasn’t given back to the world, to our country, and has only been a siphon for his own benefit.

      The story does report $130 million in charitable contributions over the years. A good portion of this was for a conversation easment on a property north of NYC. The contribution was taken after locals fought to prevent the land from being developed into a golf course and hotel. It would seem apparent that though, perhaps within guidelines, these are all for his benefit, to avoid taxes.

      Who is going to support this guy after he is president? There is no information in the report that he has given to major instiutions, universities, hospitals, organization who feed orphans in Africa, or anything that benefits other humans.

      We’ve had crooks and terrible presidents before. As far as the modern era goes, seems indisputable that Trump’s rating by scholars will be below both Dubya and Nixon. Sure, he’ll be considered consequential by said scholars.

      Disgrace to our nation and the office.

  3. Why would any bank loan him money with his record at losing it?? Why would any non-banking money source loan him money unless he could repay somehow in some way??

  4. 4 years less about 10 days ago the Access Hollywood tape came out. I thought that should have been enough to make him crawl back into the slimy hole from whence he came. While interesting reading, I doubt this moves the needle come November 3rd one iota. Tragic.

  5. I am curious to see if Trump’s support remains at 41% going forward.

    What a nightmare. Let’s hope he is cuffed after handoff on Jan 20th.

    I’m in my armchair saying this, so, please don’t attack me: “Worse than Nixon.”

    1. I think about 25% will accept anything, Tramp can urinate on their faces and they will claim that’s golden rain.
      The rest may change opinion.

    1. Look no further than him holding that bible up for the photo op in DC, the only reason he did that was to take advantage of people of faith for his own personal gain and variety, which is as sinful as it gets.

  6. It seems to me that people are missing the REAL STORY about trump’s taxes. Any intelligent person knows trump is a failure in business. Any moral person knows trump is a failure morally. These things were already widely known.

    The REAL STORY that we learn from trump’s taxes is that he has no money and he has never had his own money. He squandered his inheritance long ago in numerous bankruptcies. He gets his money from foreign bank loans underwritten by other foreign entities. See, loans can be spent then taken as losses on tax returns. Remember the Buzzfeed bombshell last week about the global banking system pushing illicit funds in the billions all over the place? It’s not a coincidence that Buzzfeed dropped that article a week ago…

    Who are these foreign entities? Why are they giving trump all this money? What do they get in return?

    The answers are more or less obvious. And further trump knows he will be executed by his handlers once he is no longer useful to them just like his good friend Jeffery Epstein. That is why trump will fight tooth and nail to remain in office without regard for law or American Democracy. HIS LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.

    Also, the whole nominate an unqualified psychotic delusional member of cult that believes in the enslavement of women to the Supreme Court is his attempt at distract. It’s the only play he has right now. There is a reason the announcement was literally yesterday. He knew this story was coming out. He has probably known about the story for a few weeks if not months.

  7. Goes a long way toward explaining why Trump is such a suckup with authoritarians. It’s not because he admires their machismo and approves of their policies (okay, maybe a little). It’s because Putin, Prince Bonesaw, Erdogan, Kim are all world-class grifters who have stolen billions from their people and could easily bail Trump out if he finds himself in a pickle. This pretty much assures Donald will be feasting on gerkins after 1.20.21.

  8. Mark Twain warned of the man with the bible in one hand and the flag in the other hand.
    Yes he can tell his people it is raining when he pees in their face. Long as he dog whistles.
    McConnell and the boys need his base and are hoping the old American tradition of having a President from one party and congress from the other plays out this cycle.

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