Holy Grail attained: NYT gets hold of Trump’s tax returns

“LONG-CONCEALED RECORDS SHOW TRUMP’S CHRONIC LOSSES AND YEARS OF TAX AVOIDANCE” (NYT):

The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

Finally all of the Trump-haters’ questions will be answered? Sadly, no. Much additional forensic accounting remains to be done.

By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

If the tax returns don’t reveal Trump’s true wealth “by their very nature,” why was it so important to obtain and review them?

I’ve read through this article once and can’t find anything interesting. Trump seems to have had some winners and losers among his properties and took all of the deductions that good tax lawyers (such as RBG’s husband, a specialist in limiting payments to the government that RBG sought to expand) could find.

Actually, a close reading of the article reveals that Trump should actually be rich, as you might expect with someone who uses a Boeing 757 as a personal/family aircraft:

The newer tax returns show that Mr. Trump burned through the last of the tax-reducing power of that $1 billion in 2005, just as a torrent of entertainment riches began coming his way following the debut of “The Apprentice” the year before.

For 2005 through 2007, cash from licensing deals and endorsements filled Mr. Trump’s bank accounts with $120 million in pure profit. With no prior-year losses left to reduce his taxable income, he paid substantial federal income taxes for the first time in his life: a total of $70.1 million.

According to some previous articles that I’ve read, due to some crazy favorable contract terms and tax laws it seems that Trump was able to deduct losses on real estate that were actually incurred by partners (i.e., the $1 billion in losses for him might have been taken after only a $50 million personal loss). So if he chewed through this $1 billion with profits, that likely means that he actually earned $1 billion in profit circa 1995-2005 and didn’t have to pay income tax on that profit (due to the losses carried forward from the previous ventures in which he had not actually lost $1 billion of his own money).

Is it fair to say that the NYT’s long hunt for Trump’s tax returns has merely revealed that Trump was making roughly $100 million per year in a volatile industry and that his tax lawyers have been aggressive with the deductions? Who was a primary enabler of Trump being able to keep most of this $100 million/year?

Business losses can work like a tax-avoidance coupon: A dollar lost on one business reduces a dollar of taxable income from elsewhere. The types and amounts of income that can be used in a given year vary, depending on an owner’s tax status. But some losses can be saved for later use, or even used to request a refund on taxes paid in a prior year.

Until 2009, those coupons could be used to wipe away taxes going back only two years. But that November, the window was more than doubled by a little-noticed provision in a bill Mr. Obama signed as part of the Great Recession recovery effort. Now business owners could request full refunds of taxes paid in the prior four years, and 50 percent of those from the year before that.

What about the New York Times’s passion for learning more about how American women make money with their, um, natural assets?

The data contains no new revelations about the $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford, the actress who performs as Stormy Daniels — a focus of the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena for Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial information.

How about the proven (by the NYT) fact that everything Trump has done has been bankrolled by Russia?

No subject has provoked more intense speculation about Mr. Trump’s finances than his connection to Russia. While the tax records revealed no previously unknown financial connection — and, for the most part, lack the specificity required to do so — they did shed new light on the money behind the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, a subject of enduring intrigue because of subsequent investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The records show that the pageant was the most profitable Miss Universe during Mr. Trump’s time as co-owner, and that it generated a personal payday of $2.3 million…

So the guy who was earning $100 million per year from 1995-2005 added $2.3 million to his fortune via an event that occurred in Moscow?

Here’s the most shocking section to me:

Likewise the cost of haircuts, including the more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice.” Together, nine Trump entities have written off at least $95,464 paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.

That’s a lot of hair-related expense!

Readers: What new and important information did you take away from this article?

32 thoughts on “Holy Grail attained: NYT gets hold of Trump’s tax returns

  1. NY AG Tish James is the only one that could have had access besides Trump and the IRS.

    If the leak came from NY, leftists screwed up bigley

    • Huh? What about the small army of accountants, lawyers, and banks that must have copies of the returns? Everything isn’t a government conspiracy. Sometimes there’s a simple, non paranoid fueled logical reason to these things.

  2. >Much additional forensic accounting remains to be done.

    The Times has promised that the forensics will continue and this is just the beginning. They’ve got more rounds for their M65, and they’re going to keep firing them. The “conversation” has changed now.

    We’re going to see whether Trump Inc. has anything to fire back with, but I think they’ve got nothing of consequence in terms of the propaganda battle.

    The headline is that he paid almost nothing in taxes, and he worked the system so he wouldn’t have to. There are going to be 100,000 stories about this written in the next 30 days. Tish James was wearing gloves and handling those records in a fume hood, her fingerprints are nowhere to be found, or this never would have been published.

  3. The biggest revelations in the article are the names of the law firms. The New York Times has decided which white-shoe law firms are now walking the plank, and if you want to talk about chilling effects, there’s nothing better than that. Donor money is going to dry up fast. No more friends.

  4. Finally, the continuing fusillade of atomic shells is going to be impressive and spectacular, but the shock and awe is just for the poor people. The truth is, this is mostly to influence rich people’s sense of smell. What stinks most to them is the whiff of tax trouble. The NYT is going to make sure that Trump and everyone in his family reeks of it. Wealthy people can smell that stink from a million miles away.

  5. “What new and important information did you take away from this article?”

    That there are no audit findings that caused any kind of restatement or penalty. They would have mentioned them if they existed.

    I am really depressed to hear that Alex thinks that the NYT attacking Trump with a gaming mouse is going to cause rich people to have any change in attitude.

    • I am with Alan, on changing the rich peoples minds, it will have no effect on them, they have received way to much reward from the idiot in chief.
      The rank and file Americans that are on the fence and any that believed he was some kind of rich business man that was going to help them, I expect this might be a wake up call to a few of them though.
      As well it will certainly help fund raising

    • Ray: But who is “on the fence”? As our greatest intellectual among politicians noted, if you haven’t already decided whom to vote for, “then you ain’t black” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2020/may/22/joe-biden-charlamagne-you-aint-black-trump-video ). The same could be said about any other victimhood group, right? And then we could also say the same about voters in general. The proposed policies of Harris-Biden and Trump are fairly different. How can a voter be undecided at this point about which policies will benefit him/her/zir/them?

    • Alan,
      Where do you live? Do you have a swath of friends or mostly an echo chamber?
      There are tons of people that I believe to be undecided or on the fence.
      For instance the service man that has voted republican all his life. Similarly the christian who is struggling to pull for a democrat.
      Somme might just say fuck it all together, these fickle ones will be easily swayed back without a stream of this type of info. For me it is a little early feels like the dems are blowing the load early.

  6. Isn’t the most interesting aspect and the next sideshow going to be Trump’s investigation of how “All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it.”

  7. Another nothingburger. If there was anything even remotely bad in Trump’s taxes the article would have a different tone. It is the NYT’s letting their readers down gently that this is not the thing that will take out the greatest American President since Andrew Jackson.

  8. Yeah it’s a NOTHINGBURGER. That’s why Brad Parscale tried to kill himself the day it hit the press and is now in a mental institution. I don’t know, fellas, but when your senior advisor for digital media operations and former campaign manager threatens to put a gun to his head and end his life at 44 years old, with a month to go in the campaign, something’s wrong.

    • Of course this is two weeks after Drudge and everybody else in the digital universe pointed out the campaign ran a “Support the Troops” ad featuring MiG-29s and soldiers with Russian rifles. The photo for the ad was apparently sourced on the cheap from Shutterstock, made by someone named BPTU in Andorra, and nobody really vetted it to figure out if they were American planes.

      https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/14/trump-ad-asks-people-to-support-the-troops-but-it-uses-a-picture-of-russian-jets-414883

      So it’s been a tough couple of weeks for Parscale, not to say a tough four years, and it looks like he’s had enough.

    • @Philg: He was replaced as campaign manager by Bill Stepien but he was still a senior advisor. Trump demoted him but he was still very much a part of the team. Not fired.

      https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/15/trump-replaces-campaign-manager-parscale-stepien-365176

      “Parscale will remain focused on his specialty areas, digital politicking and data management, according to people briefed on the campaign shakeup. The former campaign manager has played a key role in building up Trump’s campaign into a small-donor juggernaut, raking in millions of dollars per month via email and other digital appeals in addition to big-dollar events starring Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and others.”

    • @Philg: I don’t any special insight into Brad Parscale’s state of mind, but it’s certainly plausible the demotion weighed heavily on him and was a source of anguish. To say he was fired, though, isn’t really what happened.

      The remaining days and weeks will tell just how much more pertinent information is forthcoming from the Times. It looks a lot to me like they’re trying to shake the foundations and see whatever else emerges, in addition to what they already have and are selectively releasing. This isn’t going to end soon.

    • @Philg: We also don’t know what his relationship with his wife (Candice Blount) has been like since he was demoted. She called the police.

  9. It’s so odd that you have become such a Trump fan-boy, Phil. Let me ask: do you think that people such as Trump (say, those who “own a 757”) *should* pay more in taxes? Yes, you can admire Trump’s success in taking advantage of every loophole available. But he’s no longer a private citizen, he’s part of the government, the same government that determines sound and equitable tax policy. Yet Trump still has the “f*ck everybody I’m in it for myself” attitude. Not a whisper of tax reform from him. Oddly, you seem to support attitude that in a president.

    • As someone who votes in a non-swing state, I don’t have any control over who is president. So I try not to get invested in being a fan or a hater.

      For better or worse, Trump is in the real estate business. Tax treatment for this business seems to rely on collecting nearly all of the money only once properties are sold (since, until then, the depreciation should cancel out the rents) or after about 39 years (when the depreciation clock runs out). I haven’t seen any evidence that Trump is paying taxes in a different way or at a different level than other commercial real estate owners. A friend, with some investors, owns a $100+ million office building and it is the same story. If there are profits (in the age of coronapanic, maybe there won’t be? Who needs a physical office anymore?), the taxes on those profits won’t come due for 20+ years.

      In light of coronapanic devaluing cities and in light of Americans being the most panicked of any society (what other country would be willing to keep its schools closed for a year or more?), Trump would probably have done better to have diversified into Asian and European real estate and also to have gotten out of real estate and into some domestic and international stock index funds.

      Trump’s relatively low tax bill to date, compared to what we assume is his wealth, isn’t that different from what has happened with Warren Buffett (see https://www.barrons.com/articles/warren-buffetts-nifty-tax-loophole-1428726092 ). Even without the platoon of tax lawyers that Buffett has used, most taxes on his decades of earnings won’t come due until he dies (unless he deprives the Treasury of these funds by donating everything to Africa via the Gates Foundation). Trump has surely paid a higher percentage of his income in tax than Buffett. Why is Buffett a hero while Trump is a villain based on tax payments?

    • Phil she is trying to shame you back onto the plantation. If you return, she will be nice to you, maybe. Or you will get whipped for running away in the first place.

    • she: As someone who is NOT an investor in commercial real estate, incidentally, of course I would nobly and altruistically support tax increases on people in the real estate business, including Donald Trump and his family!

      Note that the 2018 tax rate/law changes that Trump signed actually do scale back some of the subsidies to real estate. See https://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-the-new-tax-law-will-do-to-your-mortgage-interest-deduction-2018-02-09 for how treatment of mortgage interest is now less favorable (so there is less of a subsidy from middle-income renters to rich owners of expensive houses).

    • GB: I can get virtue points in our suburb if I post BLM, “Imprison Trump,” and Biden-Harris signs on the lawn.

    • At the very least he has lied like a fiend about his true wealth.
      For all his fans I have heard that in NY he is the laughing stock of real estate investors not even in the top 25 in the city.

    • she wonders: If you’re looking for a “tax reform” idea that would bite into the flesh of the Trumps, I think https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_value_tax might be the best one. See also

      https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2019/04/henry-georges-single-tax-could-combat-inequality/587197/

      This would force commercial property owners to pay a “fair share” annually without penalizing them for investing in making a nicer building.

      From Wikipedia:

      Land value tax has been referred to as “the perfect tax” and the economic efficiency of a land value tax has been known since the eighteenth century. Many economists since Adam Smith and David Ricardo have advocated this tax, but it is most famously associated with Henry George, who argued that because the supply of land is fixed and its location value is created by communities and public works, the economic rent of land is the most logical source of public revenue.

  10. I know a couple of big guys like Parscale. He’s 6′ 8″ tall, a big man. Normally a gentle giant, but tall people have a different mindset, particularly when they’re successful. When that starts to fall apart, all kinds of things happen to them, most of them bad. They go through life literally being bigger and better than everyone else, and if they have the skills, they can push that a lot further.

    But when something happens that undermines their height advantage, they lose their shit a lot of the time.

  11. Trump’s wealth is not categorically a problem, but his intentional ignorance and crippled personality has no place in politics or public policy. His ascent in public life says more about the GOP than about him. Alas, all I could do was leave the GOP which I did in November 2016. By philg standards my vote will count in Florida. If he wins re-election, we deserve him.

    • Also in Florida and have said to my skeptics group similar to your comment we get the government we deserve.

  12. My guess it’s some young, idealistic lawyer or law clerk who had access to the returns that were filed with the court. Trumps a ‘bad guy’ and these returns will prove he’s a russian tool…

    Can you spell F E L O N Y? This is the end of somebody’s career. I can’t believe the NYT went this far to get these returns. Publishing secret documents to throw light on a crazy or illegal government scheme is one thing, but suborning a felony simply to smear one of their enemies, that’s something else altogether.

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