An analysis published by the New York Times claims to lift the lid on the US president’s finances
Donald Trump has fought hard to keep his tax affairs private since entering office, breaking with the tradition of his most recent predecessors in refusing to release his tax returns.
But an analysis published by the New York Times, which says it has got hold of Mr Trump’s tax information dating back two decades, appear to lift the lid on the US president’s finances – and cast doubt over his claims of being a hugely successful businessman.
Mr Trump has pushed back on the newspaper’s reporting, claiming on Sunday that he has paid “a lot” in taxes but refusing to get into specific figures.
However, the allegations come just ahead of the first presidential election debate and could deal a serious blow to Mr Trump’s re-election chances.
Mr Trump paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the last 15 years, according to the New York Times. This was largely because Mr Trump declared substantial losses on his businesses which he said outweighed his income.
In 2016, Mr Trump’s finances improved slightly, but he still only paid $750 in federal income tax. In 2017, his first year in the White House, he paid another $750 in federal income tax.
According to the newspaper’s analysis, Mr Trump may be the wealthiest US president in history, but his most predecessors – Barack Obama and George W Bush – each regularly paid much more than Mr Trump in federal income taxes while in office.
Mr Trump’s golf courses are among the most well-known assets in his business empire – but they are also losing large amounts of money, according to tax documents seen by the New York Times.
The president has three golf courses in Europe: Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links Aberdeen in Scotland, and Trump Doonbeg in Ireland. Mr Trump stayed at Turnberry during his 2018 working visit to the UK, while other members of his administration, including his Vice President Mike Pence, have also stayed at the resorts during official trips to Europe.
But according to the tax documents, in all the three golf courses reported $63.6 million in losses between 2010 and 2018.
Mr Trump received a $72.9 million tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after declaring huge business losses – but an audit is now challenging the legitimacy of that rebate, according to the New York Times.
If the long-running audit rules against Mr Trump, he could be forced to return the $72.9 million refund with interest and possible penalties that could total more than $100 million.
Mr Trump has cited the audit as grounds for refusing to release his tax returns to the public, and appeared to reference the audit when he recently said the IRS “treat me horribly”.
The New York Times also claims that the president’s tax returns show he reduced his taxable income by writing off huge sums in consulting fees. According to the paper, between 2010 and 2018 Mr Trump wrote off some $26 million in “consulting fees” as a business expense across his projects.
Across almost all of his projects, Mr Trump’s companies allocated about 20 per cent of their income for “consulting fees”, according to the paper’s analysis.
Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump appears to have received some of these “consulting fees” – despite being a top executive at the Trump Organization.
The newspaper says some of the fees listed in Mr Trump’s records – namely $747,622 in fees to an unnamed consultant for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia – correspond exactly with income Ms Trump has listed in public disclosures.
According to The New York Times, Mr Trump’s career as a TV presenter was lucrative with the show The Apprentice and sponsorship deals earning him almost $430 million.
But the TV appearances also reportedly allowed him to write off lavish business expenses on his taxes – including more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during The Apprentice and $95,000 paid to a hair and makeup artist favoured by Ivanka Trump, his daughter, according to the paper.
Mr Trump’s homes, planes and golf courses are part of the Trump family business and, as such, classified them as business expenses as well, according to the Times.
Mr Trump has received much more income from foreign sources than previously known, according to the New York Times. The newspaper’s analysis of his overseas holdings found that his revenue from abroad was $73 million in his first two years in office.
The paper claimed that Mr Trump’s revenue included $5 million from a hotel deal in Azerbaijan, $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey.
Mr Trump’s large revenue streams from foreign countries also meant he reported paying more taxes overseas than he did in federal income taxes in the US, according to the documents.
For instance in 2017, he or his companies paid $15,598 in Panama, $145,400 in India and the $156,824 in the Philippines. In that same year he paid just $750 in US federal income taxes.
The one consistent theme of the New York Times’ analysis of Mr Trump’s tax information is that the president’s finances are in serious trouble, with some of his businesses losing millions of dollars. There are also substantial debts which he has personally guaranteed.
In total, Mr Trump is personally responsible for loans and other debts totalling $421 million, most of which is due within the next four years, according to the paper. On top of that, a $100 million mortgage on Trump Tower in New York will be due in 2022.
Should Mr Trump win re-election in November, the president and his lenders could be placed in an unprecedented position.
US lobbyists, foreign governments and politicians have all helped support Mr Trump’s properties by lavishing significant sums of money at his hotels, private club and golf resorts.
Since 2015, his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida has taken in $5 million more a year from a surge in membership, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile US lobby groups and foreign officials have spent large sums at Trump Hotel in Washington DC in the hopes of endearing themselves to the US president.
This has raised conflict of interest concerns given Mr Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests while in office.
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News – The ten key points from Donald Trump’s tax returns