Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns, saying “It’s none of your business” and “there’s nothing to learn.” Of course, there is something to learn from the recent tax returns of a supposed billionaire who seeks to gain the trust of American voters. If we had access to Trump’s returns we’d learn Donald’s top 10 tax tricks.
In 2011, when Trump was leading the “birther” movement, he promised to release his tax returns if President Obama showed his long-form birth certificate; Obama did but Donald backed off. Earlier, Trump had released his tax returns to obtain casino licenses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In July of 2015, and on May 17, he complied with the Federal Election Commission requirements and released a financial disclosure report, claiming it showed assets “in excess of 10 billion dollars.” But not his returns.
Donald turned reticent because he doesn’t want to give away his top 10 tax tricks.
10. Don’t make charitable donations: A Federal tax return is more detailed than the FEC financial disclosure report because the return reveals how much you gave to charity. In 2011, Mitt Romney’s return showed that he gave about $2.3 million to charity. (Romney has chided Trump for not releasing his tax returns suggesting, “we can only assume it’s a bombshell of unusual size.”)
The Washington Post reported that despite Trump’s claims that he had given $102 million to charity in the past five years, their investigation found that none of these gifts involved money, usually free rounds of golf..
In 2008, Barack Obama’s tax returns showed his donations to Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Trump is a Presbyterian who attends Manhattan’s Marble Collegiate church. His tax returns would show if he donated to the Presbyterians.
9. Pay no taxes: Trump boasts, “I pay as little as possible [in taxes].”
Every year the IRS posts the aggregate figures on the richest 400 returns: income greater than $100 million; average tax rate 22.89%. In 2011, Mitt Romney had a tax rate of 14.1%. In 2014, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s rate was 35.7%.
8. Employ tax loopholes. Trump boasts, “I use every single [tax trick].”
Writing in The Atlantic David Graham observed, “Trump has a long history of questionable finances.”
7. Move money offshore. Trump denies having a Swiss or offshore bank account. Nonetheless, CBS news reported that he holds stock in many companies that have stashed billions of dollars in offshore accounts. It’s not apparent from Trump’s financial disclosure form if he actually has an offshore account; but’s it’s a common practice for complex partnerships, such as Trump’s, to have such accounts.
6. Manufacture goods overseas. Trump pushes products made in the US. However the Washington Post reported that Trump’s clothing line is made in “Bangladesh, China, Honduras, and other low-wage countries.”
5. Invest overseas. Forbes noted: “While bashing companies for investing in foreign countries … a significant percentage of [Trump’s] company’s hotels and major real estate properties are located abroad;” including Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Dubai, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Turkey, United Arab Emigrates and Uruguay.
4. Do business with Muslims. If he became president, Trump would ban Muslims from entering the US. Nonetheless, the Washington Post noted, “Trump makes an awful lot of money from an awful lot of people he’d rather keep from entering the United States;” he has businesses in countries with large Muslim populations such as Indonesia, India and Turkey.
3. Don’t question your partners. On Feb. 28, Sen. Ted Cruz said, “There have been multiple media reports about Donald’s business dealings with the mob, with the mafia. Maybe his [tax returns] show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported.” PolitiFact reported, “Cruz’s statement is accurate. Media reports have linked Trump to mafia bosses and mob-connected business associates for decades.”
2. Boast about your income, but not to the IRS. The Wall Street Journal studied Trump’s July filing with the Federal Election Commission and concluded Donald’s 2014 income was between $456-543 million. This would place him among the richest 400 Americans.
Nonetheless, clever investigative reporting suggests Trump’s reported income may be less than $500,000.
1. Inflate your assets, but not to the IRS. The Wall Street Journal concluded, “Trump has assets worth at least $1.5 billion.” Trump claimed $10 billion.
The Washington Post observed: “Trump is highly sensitive about suggestions that he is not as wealthy as he claims. He sued Timothy O’Brien, author of the 2005 book TrumpNation, because O’Brien calculated that Trump was not worth the billions that he claimed. (O’Brien concluded Trump was worth just $150 million to $250 million.) As part of discovery in the libel lawsuit, Trump had to turn over his tax returns. Trump lost the case.”
Blasting Trump for not releasing his tax returns, Mitt Romney said: “it is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service.”