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Semafor LogoJ.D. Capelouto and Diego Mendoza
newsNorth America

What we’ve learned from the release of Trump’s tax returns

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Title iconThe News

A Democrat-led U.S. House committee released data from six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Friday.

Here's a running list of the major takeaways from the House Ways and Means Committee's report and the returns.

Donald Trump
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
Title iconThe takeaways
  • No audit: The report claimed the IRS did not audit Trump during his first two years in office, despite a law mandating it. The IRS only began auditing those filings in 2019 and has yet to complete those audits, per The New York Times.
  • Less is more: Trump "repeatedly paid little or nothing in federal income taxes between 2015 and 2020 despite reporting millions in earnings," Politico reported. That's because even though he made tens of millions of dollars annually, he was able to claim business losses that offset that income, lowering his tax bill.
  • Final year losses: Trump paid $0 in income taxes in 2020, his final year as president, "as his income dwindled and losses once again mounted," The Times reported.
  • Donation investigation: The committee said some of Trump's reported charitable giving, used to offset taxes, deserves further scrutiny, according to CNN. For example, in 2015, he claimed a $21.1 million deduction for donating 158 acres of land in New York, but allegedly didn't get a qualified appraisal for the property. The report said Trump also reported millions in cash donations over the next several years — contributions he should be asked to substantiate. In his 2020 tax returns, Trump reported zero charitable donations, despite saying he would donate all of his salary while in office.
  • Foreign bank accounts: Trump's returns confirmed he held several foreign bank accounts while in office including in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and China. The Chinese bank account, previously reported by the New York Times, was tied to the former president's hotel business in China. Politico reported that the forms also show Trump earning income in other countries including Canada, Panama, the UK, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, and the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean.
Title iconStep Back

The report followed a yearslong legal battle in which Democrats tried to get their hands on the filings. The Supreme Court only ruled in the last several weeks that the House committee could obtain the returns.

The findings build on a 2020 New York Times investigation that detailed tax information obtained from more than two decades of Trump's filings.

The investigation found that the returns "tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public," given that years of reported losses offset the amount he had to pay in taxes.

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