Does the NYT release of Trump’s tax info prove he exploited the system?


Fact Box

  • The New York Times published President Trump’s tax-return data from over two decades, including the hundreds of companies related to his name, and information from his first two years in office. 
  • According to the report, Trump paid very little in taxes over the last 10 years, and instead, claimed a large refund from his business losses - golf courses lost a total of $315 million and his hotel in Washington, D.C. lost $55 million. He also claimed refunds on haircuts and makeup.
  • US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released his tax returns the evening of the first debate with President Trump.
  • Richard Nixon was the catalyst for the release of presidential tax returns. In 1973, while under audit over his personal taxes, Nixon released returns dating back to 1969. Every president since has done the same, except for Gerald Ford, who instead made his tax data public.

Bonnie (No)

By taking the time to do a little research, instead of automatically believing the New York Times' claims, it becomes clear the NYT misrepresented the facts in President Trump's taxes. Much of the period covered by the tax information the NYT reported on happened to be years that Trump's business losses greatly exceeded any profits that he made. He was able to obtain a refund on previously paid taxes due to a change in the tax code pertaining to business losses passed by democrats during Obama's administration.

Now Democrats are trying to attack the president for successfully using a tax law they had implemented. As one journalist stated so well: 'I want someone who actually has the business acumen to employ what he can within the law, that's the guy I want in charge of the economy.' In the NYT article, the first words claim Trump only paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, ensuring readers got that much even if they didn't read anymore. Much farther down the page, the NYT finally added the fact that Trump had to file extensions and accordingly advanced what he might owe in taxes: $1 million in 2016 and $4.2 million in 2017. The $750 the NYT reported was in addition to what Trump had already paid. 

In addition to that, between 2000 and 2017, Trump also had to pay $24.3 million for the alternative minimum tax. Along with federal income taxes, Trump paid considerable payroll, state, and local taxes during this period, which the NYT neglected to report.

Jon (Yes)

Donald Trump has frequently spoken about wanting to release his tax returns to the public. Still, he frequently excused why he can't or baits others into making the first move, as he did with Hilary Clinton during the private email debacle. The New York Times article on this explains Trump's hesitance to release his tax records. After this report, it's undeniable that Trump has not paid any federal income taxes for at least 11 of the past 18 years. The most known number from the New York Times article that outlines Trump's tax release is the $750 he paid in taxes the first year of his presidency.

For reference, in their early years as president, Barack Obama and George W. Bush paid $1,792,414 and $250,221 in taxes, respectively. Coupled with the fact that he was able to claim a tax return amounting to $72.9 million during that same period, which he is currently in audit for with the IRS, this is absolute exploitation of the system that every citizen, by law, follows. Other than that, the NYT article also says Trump has obtained write-offs for more than just business reasons—like a mansion used for family gatherings, and a criminal defense lawyer. If that isn't enough, the article also details financial payments to Ivanka Trump as consultant fees, which further reduced his taxable income. By claiming a family member 'as a consultant,' he was able to deduct that fee as a 'cost of doing business.' This was by no means the right way Trump should have conducted his business to exploit the system to pay almost nothing in Federal income taxes.

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