While The New York Times has released Donald Trump’s taxes in full, the paper trail is galling if not unsurprising.
Attempting to hold Donald Trump accountable is much like trying to staple an octopus against a wall; despite the amount of ink produced in this endeavour, all we’re left with is goopy hands and disappointment. The question of his taxes has been one of the more antiquated through-lines of Donnie’s fuckery, one that seems mildly irrelevant compared his contemporary wrongdoing, such as the whole being impeachment thing.
Nevertheless, The New York Times has released his tax returns, sensationally illuminating the piddly amount of taxation he’s paid for more than a decade. According to, and of the newspaper, “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.”
The authors go on to note that he “paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made”. They also noted that Trump reduced his tax liability by taking a $72.9 million tax refund. That is currently in the process of being audited by the IRS.
Prior to his presidency, Trump promised to release his tax returns in 2011, 2014 and 2015. He didn’t. During his campaign, he promised he’d release the documents after they were “worked on”. He didn’t. In 2016, The Washington Post noted that “the last time information from Donald Trump’s income-tax returns was made public, the bottom line was striking: He paid the federal government $0 in income taxes”.
The newspaper noted that this was in 1981. At the time, Trump (who was angling for the Republican Party nomination) denounced corporate executives for using taxation loopholes and “false deductions” to “get away with murder”. He also told CBS in 2015 that “They make a fortune. They pay no tax…it’s ridiculous, okay?”.
From 2016 to 2019, Trump claimed that he was unable to make his returns public because they were being audited, a position he strengthened today, claiming that the investigation was “Fake news. Totally fake” and his tax returns have not been released because “they are under audit”.
However, as the commissioner of internal revenue, Charles P. Rettig, noted, there’s no law against releasing tax returns that are in the process of being audited. It’s also worth noting that Richard Nixon released his paltry audited return in 1973, thereby setting the standard of the President’s tax return being a document owned by the people.
The New York Times investigation is by no means the only attempt to drag Trump’s taxes into the light, as 2019 saw three aimed at the president. First, The Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives made a formal request to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and later issued a subpoena to the IRS, for six years of Trump’s returns, as part of an effort by the committee to evaluate “the extent to which the I.R.S. audits and enforces the federal tax laws against a president.”
Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defied the subpoena. Upon the Trump administration’s refusal to turn over the documents, the Committee filed a suit to enforce the subpoena. That case is pending.
August 2019 saw the Manhattan District Attorney issue a subpoena to Donald Trump seeking eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, as part of state prosecutors’ investigation into hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Trump sought to quash the subpoena, contending that a sitting president enjoys “absolute immunity from criminal (sic) process of any kind.”
However, as the New York Times opines, the tax returns illustrate a larger vista. In artistic terms, a numb home-made copy of a masterpiece. As the authors put it, “The tax data examined by The Times provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defence lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
“Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.
“Ultimately, Mr Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.”
As the man himself said in 2016, voters weren’t interested in this issue, claiming that “there’s nothing to learn from them”; and that his tax rate is “none of your business”. In 36 days, we’ll find out.