(Getty/Salon)

10 things you need to know about Trump’s tax returns

Did Trump break the law? Almost surely.



Robert Reich
October 3, 2020 11:31PM (UTC)

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Finally Trump's tax returns have been made public. Here are the 10 big things you need to know about them: 

1. Did he break the law? Almost surely. Details of tax practices suggest fraud on a massive scale. As Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general at the Justice Department, said yesterday, based on the Times's story, Trump faces federal and state prosecution for bank fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud, as does his entire family.

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2. How little has he paid in taxes? In 11 of the 18 years examined, Trump paid no taxes at all. In his first year in office he paid the most income tax he had paid in a decade: $750. He has deducted taxes for almost everything imaginable, including $70,000 for hairstyling.

3. But he paid taxes in other nations where he did business? Yes, in 2017, when he paid $750 to the U.S., he paid $15,598 in Panama —$145,400 in India —$156,824 in the Philippines. So much for America first. 

4. Why did Trump run for president? He was deeply in debt in 2015, and was, as his former fixer Michael Cohen said, eager to rebuild his brand by running for president. The presidency has injected cash into Trump's businesses, as lobbyists and foreign governments have invested in them. But he's still losing money. 

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5. How broke is he? He owes more than $300 million in loans and can't repay them. His businesses are constantly losing money. He's fighting with the IRS and could owe another $100 million to the government. So much for the "successful businessman" image. 

6. Who does he owe money to? We don't know. And that's part of the problem. Because whoever he does has huge leverage over him. 

7. Does this make Trump a national security risk? You bet. Note that a bipartisan group of nearly 500 national security officials, past and present, last week endorsed Biden for president. The list includes retired General Paul Selva, who served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first two and a half years of Trump's presidency.

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8. Why is he so desperate to stay in power? Presumably because a sitting president cannot be indicted, and he won't have to face federal and state prosecution.

9. What's Trump's reaction to this bombshell? Not surprisingly, he claims it's "totally fake news." But the easiest way to refute it would be to make his tax returns public, which he refuses to do. 

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10. Will this bombshell affect the election? Probably not. His followers live in a Fox News bubble that this news won't permeate. It will only confirm what the rest of us already knew. Trump is a conman and a crook. 


Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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