After years of legal battles, pontifications and theories, former President Donald Trump’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020 are now part of the public record. Many critics and political opponents have speculated that Trump opposed public disclosure of his tax returns because they potentially provide evidence of illegal or politically damaging behavior.
It’s not immediately clear that they do either.
However, Trump’s tax returns raise many questions about the former president’s finances, business activities, foreign ties and charitable donations, among others.
Trump broke decades of tradition by becoming the first elected president since Nixon to refuse to release his tax returns to the public When Democratic lawmakers demanded them, Trump fought for years to keep them private, leading the battle before the Supreme Court – a legal fight he ultimately lost.
He frequently claimed during his 2016 presidential bid that he couldn’t release his taxes because they were being audited, a claim that was debunked last week when the House Ways and Means Committee revealed that the taxes of Trump in 2015 and 2016 had not been audited until 2019.
For now, the thousands of pages of documents only offer more questions about Trump’s finances and may offer potential leads for further investigation.
Trump said he had foreign bank accounts, including a bank account in China between 2015 and 2017, according to his tax returns.
Tax returns do not show what the bank account was used for, how much money passed through it, or to whom. The New York Times first reported on Trump’s China account in 2020, and Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten told The Times the account was used to pay taxes on Trump’s business push International Hotels Management in the country.
Trump did not report the Chinese bank account in personal financial disclosures when he was president, likely because it was listed under his businesses. Yet he may still have been required to report the accounts to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
Trump’s businesses and business interests span the globe. In his tax return, Trump listed business income, taxes, expenses or other notable financial items from or to Azerbaijan, Panama, Canada, India, Qatar , South Korea, United Kingdom, China, Dominican Republic, United Arab Emirates and Philippines. , Grenada, US Territory Puerto Rico, Georgia, Israel, Brazil, St. Maarten, Mexico, Indonesia, Ireland, Turkey and St. Vincent.
But the tax returns do not explain what business ties he had in those countries and with whom he might have worked while he was president.
Unlike previous presidents, Trump has refused to divest from his business interests while in office. Critics said his extensive foreign involvements undermined his ability to act independently as a politician.
During his presidency, Trump pledged to donate his entire $400,000 salary to charity each year. He frequently bragged about donating a portion of his quarterly salary to various government agencies.
If he donated his 2020 salary, he didn’t claim it on his taxes. Of the six years of tax returns released by the House Ways and Means Committee, 2020 was the only year in which Trump listed no donations to charity.
That doesn’t mean his salary hasn’t been given, but it’s unclear if he delivered on his promise in 2020.
In each year of Trump’s presidency, Trump claimed he loaned three of his adult children – Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric – undisclosed sums of money on which he earned interest.
The tax returns don’t say how much he lent them or why he gave them loans in the first place.
Between 2017 and 2020, Trump claimed to have received exactly $18,000 in interest on a loan he gave to his daughter Ivanka Trump and $8,715 in interest from his son Donald Trump, Jr.. From 2017 to 2019 , Trump said he received exactly $24,000 from his son Eric. Trump and Eric paid her $19,605 in interest in 2020.
The bipartisan joint committee on taxation said the loans and the amounts of interest claimed could indicate Trump was disguising gifts to his children. If the interest Trump claims to have charged his children was not at the market rate, for example, it could be considered a gift for tax purposes, forcing him to pay a higher rate of tax on the interest. ‘money.
Trump entered the US presidency with an extensive network of business holdings, including hundreds of limited liability companies, corporations and partnerships with operations both at home and abroad.
The scale and complexity of its business operations – including businesses nested inside each other like Matryoshka dolls – have brought a level of complexity never seen before under the US presidency and raised concerns about conflicts of interest. potential, especially with foreign entities.
The public release on Friday of Trump’s personal and business tax returns from 2015 to 2020 may shed additional light on how these operations have evolved during and shortly after his tenure. But they don’t specify where the money was going and to whom.
Since 1977, it has been the policy of the Internal Revenue Service to audit each president’s personal tax returns while in office. But the IRS did not conduct any review of Trump’s tax returns until the Ways and Means Committee called for an audit in April 2019.
When the committee questioned Treasury Department officials about the apparent failure, they declined to provide information about the actual operations of the mandatory audit program, according to the committee’s report.
It remains unclear whether Trump received special treatment or, as the committee noted, the IRS was crippled by an acute lack of resources.
The lack of an audit seems particularly suspicious after representatives of Trump’s predecessor and successor said they were subject to annual audits by the IRS. A White House spokesperson for Biden told the AP that the IRS audited Biden in 2020 and 2021. Representatives for former President Barack Obama told The New York Times that the IRS audited him. audited each year of its mandate.