The publication of Donald Trump’s records by the New York Times is one of the biggest bombshells to hit an unprecedented 2020 election campaign already been hit by a litany of scandals, a bitter fight over a supreme court nomination and a pandemic in which 7m Americans have been infected and more than 200,000 have died, during a bungled federal response.
The president’s taxes have long been the great white whale of political reporters in America as well as prosecutors keen to find evidence of wrongdoing. Democrats too were eager to seize on them as a potentially game-changing stick with which to beat the Trump campaign.
The Times, with its shock report published on Sunday evening, appears to have won the race. Its publication of details from the documents could send shock waves through the campaign as the key first debate between Trump and challenger Joe Biden looms, in Ohio on Tuesday night.
Here are some of its key findings:
Trump pays little tax
The Times reported that Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years the newspaper looked at. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750. This is despite Trump often railing against taxes in America and ushering through a series of tax cuts that critics say mostly helps the rich and big business.
Barack Obama and George W Bush each regularly paid more than $100,000 a year
The Times said of Trump’s immediate predecessors: “Barack Obama and George W Bush each regularly paid more than $100,000 a year.”
A long audit – with potentially hefty costs
Trump is involved in a decade-long audit with the Internal Revenue Service over a $72.9m tax refund he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. A ruling against him could cost him more than $100m, the Times reported.
It added: “In 2011, the IRS began an audit reviewing the legitimacy of the refund. Almost a decade later, the case remains unresolved, for unknown reasons, and could ultimately end up in federal court, where it could become a matter of public record.”
Ivanka helps reduce Trump’s tax burden
The president’s oldest daughter, while working as an employee of the Trump Organization, appears to have received “consulting fees” that helped reduce the family’s tax bill, the Times said. Such a revelation might further tarnish the reputation of Ivanka, a senior White House adviser married to another, Jared Kushner, who often tries to distance herself from some of the biggest scandals of her father’s administration. She is widely believed to harbor political ambitions of her own after Trump leaves office.
The Times reported: “Trump’s private records show that his company once paid $747,622 in fees to an unnamed consultant for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia. Ivanka Trump’s public disclosure forms – which she filed when joining the White House staff in 2017 – show that she had received an identical amount through a consulting company she co-owned.”
His lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president
Trump businesses lose money
The Times was brutal in its assessment of Trump’s businesses, about which he often boasts and on the back of which he sought to promote a carefully curated image as a master businessman. “Trump’s core enterprises – from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington – report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year,” the newspaper said.
It detailed how since 2000, Trump has reported losing more than $315m at his golf courses, with much of that coming from Trump National Doral in Florida. His Washington hotel, which opened in 2016 and has been the subject of much speculation regarding federal ethics laws, has lost more than $55m.
Trump has a big bill to pay
The newspaper also reported that Trump is facing a major financial bill, as within the next four years, hundreds of millions of dollars in loans will come due. The paper said Trump is personally responsible for many of those obligations.
The paper reported: “In the 1990s, Mr Trump nearly ruined himself by personally guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, and he has since said that he regretted doing so. But he has taken the same step again, his tax records show. He appears to be responsible for loans totaling $421m, most of which is coming due within four years.”
In a blunt summary of the problem, the Times speculated: “Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.”
Trump businesses profit from his presidency
The issue of whether Trump’s businesses benefit from his position in the White House has been one of the long-running themes of reporting on the Trump presidency. The global nature of the Trump Organization and its portfolio of hotels, resorts and other interests has left Trump open to speculation that lobbyists, business leaders and foreign powers could spend money in them to try and peddle influence in the US.
The Times report on his tax returns is clear that Trump’s businesses have indeed benefited from his political career.
“Since he became a leading presidential candidate, he has received large amounts of money from lobbyists, politicians and foreign officials who pay to stay at his properties or join his clubs,” the newspaper reported, before detailing monies paid at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida, his Washington hotel and other locations.