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Trump tax returns: Top 5 jaw-droppers from the NYT exposé

Trump not only paid less than most rich people in prior tax years but less than most lower and middle-class Americans.

Trump tax returns: Top 5 jaw-droppers from the NYT exposé
[Photo: Tia Dufour/The White House/Flickr]

Last night The New York Times published a bombshell of a report: information on almost two decades of Donald Trump’s tax returns. The returns have been the holy grail of many a journalist and political opponent ever since Trump announced his run for the presidency in 2015.

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The political ramifications from the report on the upcoming presidential election—little more than five weeks away—remain to be seen. But over the coming weeks, the Times says it will publish more articles delving into the findings. Until then, here are the top five jaw-droppers from the report:

1. In recent years, Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes

The Times reports that in 2016 and again in 2017, Trump paid just $750 each year in federal income taxes. That’s less than most Americans would pay in a single tax year. As for why Trump was able to pay so little, the Times says:

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years—largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

2. Trump got a $70,000 deduction for hairstyling-related costs

Trump’s hair is almost a character in itself—and it has enabled him to take some tax write-offs similar to the kind that helped him pay only $750 in taxes some years. Trump claims his hairstyling expenses as business deductions because of his previous TV roles, the Times says:

Mr. Trump has written off as business expenses costs—including fuel and meals—associated with his aircraft, used to shuttle him among his various homes and properties. Likewise the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.

3. Being president has been good for business

Since Trump began his run for president in 2015—and since being sworn in—some of his business have seen rocketing income. At Trump’s Washington hotel in the Old Post Office monthly receipt grew from $3.7 million in December 2016 to $6 million by May 2018. His Mar-a-Lago club performed even better:

One Trump enterprise that has been regularly profitable, and is a persistent source of concern about ethical conflicts and national security lapses, is the Mar-a-Lago club. Profits there rose sharply after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, as courtiers eagerly joining up brought a tenfold rise in cash from initiation fees — from $664,000 in 2014 to just under $6 million in 2016, even before Mr. Trump doubled the cost of initiation in January 2017. The membership rush allowed the president to take $26 million out of the business from 2015 through 2018, nearly triple the rate at which he had paid himself in the prior two years.

4. Trump owes people a lot of money in the near future

The Times’s report found that Trump has over $400 million in loans and other debts he is personally responsible for paying back in the next four years. But should he be president for another four years, his lenders will find themselves in the tricky position of whether they should demand payment or give Trump other options:

What’s more, the tax records show that Mr. Trump has once again done what he says he regrets, looking back on his early 1990s meltdown: personally guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, a decision that led his lenders to threaten to force him into personal bankruptcy.

This time around, he is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of it coming due within four years. Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.

5. Trump has paid way less than even the richest of the rich in recent years

While it might be easy to assume Trump is doing no more than other rich people do to reduce their tax bills, the Times says that his records show he is paying way less than even other rich people do in federal income taxes:

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The refund reduced his total federal income tax bill between 2000 and 2017 to an annual average of $1.4 million. By comparison, the average American in the top .001 percent of earners paid about $25 million in federal income taxes each year over the same span.

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