Trump Taxes

April 1, 2021

What About The President’s Taxes?

The New York Times says it has what many have sought for decades – the personal and business tax records of Pres. Donald Trump.

What To Know


  • The New York Times says it obtained federal taxes spanning two decades for Pres. Trump and his businesses “by sources with legal access to it” but doesn’t say how or from whom.
  • To date, the NYT is the only news outlet with access to the records – preventing fact-checking & double-sourcing.
  • NYT says it has the right to publish the information, citing the First Amendment.

The NY Times Reports:

  • NYT’s initial reporting states Pres. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 & 2017 and $0 in most of the past 15 years. NYT says the records show his companies are under financial stress, and that he personally owes $400M+ in debts in the next four years.
  • Follow-up NYT reports state Pres. Trump has questionable Chinese bank accounts, write-offs, & uses the presidency for his financial benefit.

Why It Matters:

  • Pres. Trump has active and ongoing international family businesses, which are privately held and not required to publish quarterly earnings releases. This makes his background unique and unlike a career politician – but also leads to questions by critics.
  • Every U.S. President since Jimmy Carter has voluntarily released their taxes to demonstrate financial transparency. Pres. Trump has not.

Two Sides:

Critics of Trump: Records prove a long history of tax avoidance and show Pres. Trump is not as financially successful as he claims, and thus vulnerable to foreign influence for his own financial gain.

Supporters of Trump: The NYT report is a “hit piece” based on records obtained illegally, which show Pres. Trump paid millions in taxes, and took advantage of legal tax credits and depreciations.

“Their numbers were wrong.”

Pres. Trump on NYT’s reporting, adding that with regard to his debts, that he is “very underlevered” and that the $400M+ he owes is a “peanut… not a big deal.” The President says he’s been treated “very badly” and “unfairly” by the IRS, especially from holdovers from previous administrations. For years he’s said that he cannot release his taxes while under audit, although the IRS says there is no prohibition against releasing one’s taxes while under audit.

“I think he really is not a very good businessman … The fact that he’s a bad businessman does not mean that he’s not also cheating on his taxes.”

University of Michigan Law School tax law professor Reuven Avi-Yonah on the big takeaway from NYT’s reporting. He says the records, that don’t include 2018, 2019 taxes, demonstrate that despite friendly tax laws for real estate developers, Pres. Trump’s businesses are most certainly struggling financially.

The New York Times account of President Trump’s tax returns reveal far more than his personal ability to avoid taxes. They show how the tax law can make it easy for the very wealthy to avoid taxation. And they reveal more than deficiencies in the tax law.”

Economist Dr. C. Eugene Steuerle, cofounder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, who worked for the U.S. Treasury Dept. under four presidents.

“No law barred The Times from publishing its article and if there had been one it would in all likelihood be unconstitutional.”

First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams explaining that “First Amendment law could hardly be clearer than that the press is protected in publishing newsworthy information, let alone information about a President in the midst of his campaign for re-election, regardless of whether its source was authorized or permitted to provide it.”

We can’t confirm NYT’s reporting, but we can confirm that nearly half of all Americans don’t pay federal income taxes because they make either too little or too much (and have accountants to help them “strategically plan” avoiding taxes). No person with direct knowledge of Pres. Trump’s taxes has corroborated the NYT report.


Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.

Letter from the Editor – New York Times – on why the paper chose to report on the tax returns: READ

What President Trump’s Taxes Reveal About US Tax Law: READ HERE

by Jenna Lee,