Donald Trump paid $1.8mn in federal income tax for the six years between 2015 and 2020, as he declared $53mn in net losses over the period spanning his 2016 campaign for the White House and the bulk of his term as US president.
The details of Trump’s tax payments came in a summary of his tax returns released by the Democratic-led US House ways and means committee this week after four years of legal wrangling. The panel is expected to publish full redacted versions of Trump’s tax returns in the coming days.
The summary, which was compiled by Congress’s non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, showed Trump declared no taxable income for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020, years in which he racked up $82mn in combined losses. The two years for which he reported taxable income were 2018 and 2019, with adjusted gross income of nearly $29mn.
The documents show the extent to which Trump aggressively used tax deductions and reported losses in order to lower his tax bill at the height of his political career and his public service. The JCT said it had “no opinion” on whether the former president should have paid more or less tax than he actually did during those years, but it noted a series of items on Trump’s tax returns.
Among them were interest income from related-party loans made to some of Trump’s children, including Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. The JCT said these raised “the question of whether the loans were bona fide arms lengths transactions or whether the transfers were disguised gifts that could trigger gift tax and a disallowance of interest deductions by the related borrowers”.
Like many real estate developers, Trump’s business is structured through tax-exempt “pass-through” vehicles where ultimate tax is paid on his personal returns submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.
The report noted the majority of the Trump vehicles in some years reported “either no gross income (ie only expenses), or gross income and expenses that entirely offset, raising the questions of whether these were valid trade or business activities, or whether these schedules contained costs derived from personal activities or hobbies.”
Richard Neal, the Democratic chair of the ways and means committee, has justified his pursuit and release of Trump’s tax returns on the grounds that the IRS failed to perform a mandatory audit of the ex-president’s tax returns while was in the White House.
“For four years, the committee has been reviewing how the IRS enforces the federal tax laws against, and ensures compliance by, a president,” he said on Tuesday night.
“A president is no ordinary taxpayer. They hold power and influence unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility,” he added.
But Republicans have lashed out at the publication of the tax returns as politically motivated.
“I am deeply concerned by recent erosions of taxpayer confidentiality and the dangerous precedent today’s release sets, which undermines confidence in both our tax laws and legislature,” Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate finance committee, said on Wednesday.
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