Early Takeaways From Trump's Tax Returns

Former president had negative adjusted gross income in four of the six years
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2022 8:31 AM CST
Early Takeaways From Trump's Tax Returns
Former President Trump arrives to speak at Mar-a-Lago, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

Media outlets continue to pore over six years of newly released tax returns of former President Trump. A look at some early takeaways from the documents covering 2015 to 2020:

  • Payments: "The returns show that Trump paid little, if anything, in income taxes compared with his gross income over six years, including the four in which he served as president," per the Washington Post. For example, Trump paid $750 in federal taxes in 2017 and $0 in 2020, because of business expenses, losses (often in real estate), and deductions that offset gains elsewhere. All told, Trump paid a total of about $1.1 million in federal taxes while president.
  • In the red: Because of losses, Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income in four of the six years. The amounts: -$31.7 million (2015), -$32.4 million (2016), -$12.9 million (2017), $24.3 million (2018), $4.3 million (2019), and -$4.7 million (2020). Trump says the returns show how "proudly successful" he was in business, while the New York Times says they "undermine his image as a successful entrepreneur."
  • Charity: The Times reports that the returns show that Trump appeared to renege on his promise to donate his presidential salary of $400,000 to charity, at least in 2020. In that year, he reported no charitable giving at all. If he donated his salary the previous two years, that accounted for most of his charitable giving in those years, per the Post. The highest annual total of charitable giving on the returns was $1.8 million in 2017, per the Wall Street Journal.

  • Overseas: Trump earned income from more than a dozen foreign countries while president, which Politico sees as "highlighting a string of potential conflicts of interest." Details were not provided on how he earned the money, but the nations included Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Panama, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, and Ireland. Trump's business empire has far-flung business interests abroad, including golf courses. He turned over the day-to-day operation of it to his children when he became president.
  • $3: The former president usually checked the box to send $3 of his taxes to a fund to finance presidential campaigns, notes the Wall Street Journal. Trump opted out of the public financing system himself in his presidential campaigns.
  • Loans to children: CNN reports that Trump's loans to his children may draw scrutiny. Each year, Trump reported receiving interest on various loans to them, which raises the question of whether “the loans were bona fide arm’s length transactions, or whether the transfers were disguised gifts that could trigger gift tax and a disallowance of interest deductions by the related borrowers,” per the legislative Joint Committee on Taxation.
(More Donald Trump stories.)

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