• Mon. Mar 6th, 2023

Donald Trump and his wife Melania paid $0 in taxes in 2020, newly released tax returns show.

That would be something to boast for Mr Trump, who famously responded to Hillary Clinton during a debate in 2016 regarding suggestions that he’d paid no federal income taxes: “That makes me smart”.

But more embarrassing for the former president — who has billed himself as a successful businessman — is the revelation that he had a negative income in four of the six years between 2015 and 2020.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr Trump, hit back and said the full release of the returns would reflect Mr Trump’s success as a businessman.

Figures released late Tuesday in a report by the US Congress Joint Committee on Taxation show that the 76-year-old billionaire mostly claimed enormous deficits from 2015 to 2020.

The tax information is now being scrutinised by politicians.

The release of the information comes after a protracted legal fight that began in April 2019 and went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The report reveals Mr Trump paid $1.1 million in federal taxes in the middle two years of his presidency — but almost nothing for the rest of his time in the White House.

The seven-figure sum the former Republican president shelled out in 2018 and 2019 dwarfs his $750 bill in 2017. And he paid nothing at all as his losses mounted in 2020, the year of his failed re-election bid.

But his reported income skyrocketed in 2018 and 2019, heightening feverish speculation around his finances as Congress prepares to make public his tax returns in the coming days.

The former reality TV star registered capital gains from asset sales of $22 million in 2018 and $9 million the following year, part of an overall taxable income of $28 million.

But he lost almost $65 million as he was campaigning for the presidency in 2015 and 2016 and around $13 million during his first year in office.

And Mr Trump was back to his losing ways by 2020, as his income went $5 million into the red.

The report also showed that Mr Trump had carried forward $105 million in net operating losses on his 2015 return, $73 million in 2016, $45 million in 2017 and $23 million in 2018 to reduce his tax liability.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday to release all of Mr Trump’s 2015-2020 returns, ending a four-year battle between Democrats and the former president that eventually reached the Supreme Court.

But it could take days before they are made available to the public, as the documents need to be expunged of social security numbers and other sensitive information.

The New York Times alleged in 2020 that Trump had paid no income tax in 10 of the previous 15 years after reporting massive losses.

“Trump claimed tens of millions of dollars in losses and credits without the type of substantiation an ordinary taxpayer would likely provide,” Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic member of the committee, said in a statement.

“Donald Trump had big deductions, big credits, and big losses — but seldom a big tax bill. Many questions about foreign entanglements and conflicts remain unanswered and unknown.”

A separate congressional report on the Internal Revenue Service’s mandatory presidential audit program showed it was not doing its job during most of Mr Trump’s time in office.

“The IRS only opened one mandatory examination from 2017 to 2020 for returns filed while the former president was in office,” the report reads.

The IRS began to audit Mr Trump on the very day that Democrats on the House Committee on Ways and Means requested his tax information in 2019.

The committee released no evidence that Mr Trump that sought to directly influence the IRS or discourage the agency from reviewing his tax information, but its report found problems with the agency’s approach to the audits.

Specifically, IRS agents in charge of the audits repeatedly did not bring in specialists with expertise assessing the complicated structure of Mr Trump’s holdings. They frequently determined that a limited examination was warranted because Mr Trump hired a professional accounting firm that they assumed would make sure he “properly reports all income and deduction items correctly.”

“The committee expected that these mandatory audits were being conducted promptly and in accordance with IRS policies,” committee chairman Richard Neal said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We anticipated the IRS would expand the mandatory audit program to account for the complex nature of the former president’s financial situation yet found no evidence of that.

“This is a major failure of the IRS under the prior administration, and certainly not what we had hoped to find.

“But the evidence is clear. Congress must step in.”

On December 7 this year a jury found Mr Trump’s company the Trump Organisation was guilty of multiple charges of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records.

No members of the Trump family were on trial, which Mr Trump had described as a politically-motivated “witch hunt”.

Earlier this week the bipartisan panel investigating Mr Trump’s actions in connection with last year’s Capitol riot recommended that he should face criminal charges.

– with AFP and the New York Post

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