Adam Chodorow (Arizona State), The Sliver of Trump’s Tax Return That MSNBC Obtained Tells Us Almost Nothing About His Finances. Demand More.:
On Tuesday evening, MSNBC began to tout what seemed to be a major scoop: It had a Trump tax return. The investigative journalist David Cay Johnston had received documents in the mail, and Rachel Maddow would tell all at the appointed hour. A previous leak during the campaign, to the New York Times, suggested that Trump had taken a $1 billion tax loss in the 1990s under circumstances that suggested aggressive tax planning at the best and flat-out cheating at the worst. However, we didn’t have the full returns to figure out what had actually happened.
Would this be the moment that we finally learned about Trump’s dealings with Russians, which might explain his solicitude to Vladimir Putin and Russian interests? Would we discover that, contrary to his claims, Trump has made very little in income or paid no income tax? After all, there must be some reason he refused to release his returns. Here, it was tempting to hope, was the moment it might all become clear.
Sadly, what Johnston received was not actually a complete copy of Trump’s tax returns, but rather his two-page Form 1040 from 2005. This is still big news in that we now know more than we did—assuming it is authentic, which the White House seemed to confirm in a statement Tuesday night—but it answers precious few of the questions many people have.
So, what did we learn? For one thing, we learned that Trump actually has earned substantial amounts over the years. Only about $100 million of the nearly $1 billion in losses from the early 1990s was still available in 2005, meaning Trump must have earned about $$900 million (about $81 million per year) in the intervening years, assuming no additional losses. Based on this slice of the return, we can rule out the theory that, at least up until 2005, Trump wanted to obscure his income because it was far less than he would otherwise have us believe. Of course, he likely paid precious little in taxes on that income because of the aforementioned losses.
We also now know that he has actually paid some taxes, contrary to some speculation (speculation he has only fueled by refusing to release his returns). We learned he would have would have owed only about $5 million in taxes on about $150 million in income (about 3 percent) but for the Alternative Minimum Tax (or AMT). As it was, he paid about $36 million in income taxes, representing a rate of about 25 percent, far lower than the regular statutory rate. This might help explain his proposal to eliminate the AMT. ...
Tuesday’s leak is certainly a step in the right direction for those interested in transparency and the important norm that presidents should make clear to the American people where their interests lie so that we can evaluate their motives. Nonetheless, it falls far short of what one might hope for. The leak simply reinforces Trump’s claim that he has made a lot of money without answering any of the questions about his financial dealings and potential conflicts of interest.
- The Atlantic, What Trump's 2005 Tax Returns Reveal
- Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Did Rachel Maddow Break the Law? #TrumpTaxReturns
- Daily Beast, Trump’s 2005 Taxes Revealed
- Daily Caller, David Cay Johnston Is The Reporter Who Received Donald Trump’s Tax Returns
- Forbes, Trump Tax Returns Show 2005 Income Of $153M, Taxes Of $38M
- Heavy, David Cay Johnston: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
- The Hill, Clinton Ally Offers $5M Reward in Exchange for Trump Tax Returns
- Huffington Post, Journalist Who Received Trump Tax Return Questions If Trump Leaked It Himself
- New York Times, Trump Wrote Off $100 Million in Business Losses in 2005
- Rolling Stone, Four Things We Learned About Trump's Tax Return
- Vox, Donald Trump's Tax Plan Would've Nearly Wiped Out His 2005 Tax Burden
- Vox, What is Donald Trump Hiding in His Tax Returns?
- Wall Street Journal, Leaked Return Shows Trump Paid $38 Million in Taxes in 2005
- Washington Examiner, White House Proactively Spills Trump Tax Return News
- Washington Post, Did Trump Have His Own Tax Return Leaked?
- Washington Post, It Turns Out Donald Trump Did Not Avoid Income Taxes For 18 Years After All
- Washington Post, Trump Paid $38 Million in Taxes in 2005, the White House Says
- Washington Times, Trump Responds to MSNBC’s Tax Returns Story: ‘FAKE NEWS!’