In all the time that he was running for president and subsequently that he was president, Donald Trump claimed that he could not release any of his taxes because they were all being “audited” by the IRS.
Well — and I know this is a shocker — that turns out to be a lie.
Not only was the IRS not auditing all of his returns, they weren’t even auditing his returns when they were legally required to do so, which is the four year period that he was president.
Let’s back up for a moment: for years and years, the House has been trying to get copies of Trump’s tax return on the suspicion that he was engaging in blatant tax fraud. (The Trump organization was, in fact, recently convicted of that very thing.)
Trump fought them at every turn, including appealing cases all the way up to the Supreme Court.
There were two theories about why Trump was so desperate for the American people not to see his returns: first and foremost, that he was not really as rich as he claimed to be; second, that it was scandalous how little he paid in taxes, and how fraudulent his taxes are.
It turns out that Trump paid no taxes in 2017, paid $5.3 million in 2018, paid $558,000 in 2019, and again nothing in 2020. His taxable income in these years was also a roller coaster ride. Trump had no “taxable” income in 2017, $23 million in 2018, $3 million in 2019, and once again nothing in 2020.
How is that possible?
It depends on the strategic distribution of business losses from year to year, which soak up income levels and tax liability.
It’s a shell game.
His taxes also indicate that Trump was making his money through investments, not through his businesses. His real estate ventures and other businesses consistently lost money, while most of his actual income was coming through interest earned on his investments.
For example, in 2020, Trump made more than $10.6 million in taxable interest while reporting a $15 million loss from his rental real estate properties and similar ventures.
To be sure, you have to be damn rich to have that much in investment income. If you assume a 10% return on investment, it suggests that Trump may be worth closer to $100 million (still not chump change), but certainly not the billions that Trump has always claimed to be worth.
In any case, the House Ways & Means Committee — which is now in possession of six years of Trump tax returns — voted to release them to the public. Tax experts will have the chance to go through them with a fine-tooth comb, and will be able to ascertain how much chicanery Trump has been engaging in.