trump's taxes
October 15, 2019

Before he fought to keep his tax returns private, President Trump wanted to release them — to show the world how smart he was for lowering his taxable income, a former adviser told CNN.

Sam Nunberg, who served as Trump's political adviser from 2011 to August 2015, said that over lunch in 2013, Trump said he would be fine with his tax returns being released as part of a presidential bid. Nunberg, who did not see the returns himself, told CNN that Trump "thought he could defend the return. I inferred from the conversation that he believed that it was a lower number and he'd look savvy." Another one of Trump's former senior advisers who joined the pair for lunch corroborated Nunberg's account.

In May 2014, Trump declared on Irish television that he would "absolutely" release his tax returns if he decided to run for office, but Nunberg said that six months later, he talked him out of it. During a meeting, he told Trump that under federal election rules, all he had to do was release a broad financial statement, and could leave the tax returns under wraps. Nunberg told CNN he thought this would protect Trump from opponents who might find something explosive in the tax returns. Trump was fine with this, Nunberg added, because "he wanted to look rich rather than smart."

Trump wouldn't announce he was entering the race for another eight months, and he went on to become the first nominee of a major party not to release their taxes in more than three decades. The president's tax returns are now the focus of several legal challenges, and Trump lost an appeal last week to keep House Democrats from subpoenaing his returns from his longtime accountant. Catherine Garcia

September 23, 2019

Prosecutors in New York pushed back on Monday against an argument from President Trump's attorneys that a sitting president cannot be subjected to a criminal investigation.

Trump is trying to block a grand jury subpoena for eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, and sued the New York County District Attorney's office last week. His attorneys say this subpoena is unconstitutional and should be suspended until Trump is out of office.

The prosecutors, investigating hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who said they had affairs with Trump, sent the subpoena to Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA. In their Monday court filing, prosecutors said Trump does not have "sweeping immunity" and is "seeking to invent and enforce a new presidential 'tax return privilege,' on the theory that disclosing information in a tax return will necessarily reveal information that will somehow impeded the functioning of a president, sufficiently to meet the test of irreparable harm."

Trump's claim is hurt by the fact that "every president since Jimmy Carter has voluntarily released his tax returns before or upon taking office, which has to date never impeded a president's ability to serve," prosecutors said. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday. Catherine Garcia

May 23, 2019

One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) arguments against opening impeachment proceedings against President Trump is that House Democrats are actually winning their oversight battles with the White House. And in fact, a second federal judge green-lighted congressional subpoenas of Trump's financial records on Wednesday, and two of Trump's lenders — Wells Fargo and TD Bank — have reportedly already handed over some financial records.

On the other hand, Trump's lawyers plan to appeal the rulings on his Deutsche Bank, Capital One, and accounting records, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has refused to hand over Trump's tax returns, despite a law that says he "shall," a subpoena, and a memo from IRS lawyers agreeing he has little choice. New York may have just given House Democrats a workaround on Trump's tax returns, though.

On Wednesday, the New York state Assembly and Senate gave final approval to a law that would allow three congressional committees — House Ways and Means, Senate Banking, and Joint Committee on Taxation — to request the state tax returns of any elected or top appointed official. It covers both business and personal tax returns filed in the state. New York is Trump's home and the headquarters of many of his core businesses, and the information on his state returns should be very similar to what's on his federal returns.

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs the legislation — a spokesman said he is reviewing it carefully — it will take effect immediately. That would probably provide House Democrats their fastest path to viewing Trump's tax returns — though the law, like all the other avenues, might have to overcome a court challenge first. Peter Weber

May 21, 2019

A confidential draft Internal Revenue Service memo directly contradicts Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's reason for not turning over to Congress President Trump's tax returns, The Washington Post reports.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) formally requested Trump's tax returns last month; under a 1924 law, he is one of a handful of top lawmakers with the authority to do so. Mnuchin has refused to give Neal the returns, claiming Congress does not have a "legitimate legislative purpose" to request the documents.

The memo, obtained by the Post, states otherwise, asserting that it is "mandatory" the returns are disclosed, as the law "does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met." The only way the IRS can refuse to comply with a Congressional subpoena "would be the invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege," the memo states, which has not happened.

The IRS told the Post the draft was prepared in the fall by a lawyer in the Office of Chief Counsel, and does not represent the "official position" of the agency. Trump has not released his tax returns on his own, first claiming that he can't do so because he is under audit, and later saying no one could understand his complex filings anyway. Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2019

In 1985, two years before releasing his book The Art of the Deal, President Trump purchased several properties, including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, and reported losses of $46.1 million from his casinos, hotels, and retail space in apartment buildings, The New York Times reports.

The Times obtained tax information from 1985 to 1994 that shows Trump's businesses lost more than $1 billion over the decade. Trump spent the 1980s boasting about his business talents; the figures show that in 1985, he borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars in order to purchase a $351.8 million casino, $60 million hospital, and $85 million undeveloped railroad yards. He also borrowed $10 million to buy Mar-a-Lago.

The Times reports that it took Trump 10 years to make any money off Mar-a-Lago; it cost $18.7 million a year to carry the rail yards; and it took five years to turn the hospital property into a building with apartments that could be sold. In 1985, Trump also owned a United States Football League team, the New Jersey Generals, but the league soon folded. He did have one win that year: He purchased the Hotel St. Moritz in Manhattan for $73.7 million, and sold it in 1989 for $180 million.

Because most of his businesses were not created as partnerships, Trump was on the hook for federal income taxes. In addition to losing $46.1 million in 1985, his tax information shows he also carried over $5.6 million from earlier losses, the Times reports; in fact, IRS data on one-third of high-income tax returns shows that for 1985, only three other taxpayers had greater losses that year. Under the tax code, business owners can use their losses to keep from paying taxes on future income. This is known as a net operating loss, and by 1991, the Times says, Trump's net operating losses had grown to almost $418 million, or 1 percent of all the losses reported to the IRS by individual taxpayers that year.

For more on Trump's heavy losses in other years — including 1989, when he purchased an airline that never made any money, and 1990, when he opened his debt-laden Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City — visit The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2019

Tax information obtained by The New York Times shows that from 1985 to 1994, President Trump's businesses lost more than $1 billion — so much that he did not have to pay income taxes for eight of the 10 years.

The Times received printouts of Trump's Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with figures from his 1040 forms, from someone who has legal access to them. Every year, the IRS releases information compiled from a sampling of high-income earners, and the Times discovered upon comparison that "year after year," Trump "appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer."

In 1990 and 1991, Trump reported losses of more than $250 million each year, indicating that his core business losses "were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the IRS information for those years," the Times reports. Trump, who has long boasted about his business acumen, has not released his tax returns like every other president has over the last 40 years.

The House Ways and Means Committee has asked for the last six years of Trump's business and personal tax returns, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday announced the documents will not be turned over, despite the committee chair's legal authority. A lawyer for Trump, Charles J. Harder, told the Times that IRS transcripts "particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate" and "would not be able to provide a reasonable picture of any taxpayer's return." Read more at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2019

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin informed House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) that he will not willingly hand over President Trump's tax returns, as requested under a 1924 law that clearly states he "shall" turn them over. House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) got out his highlighter:

To put it bluntly, Mnuchin appears to be breaking the law. He doesn't frame it that way, of course. In a one-page letter to Neal, he said that after consulting with Trump's Justice Department, "I have determined that the committee's request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose" and "the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution requires that congressional information demands must reasonably serve a legitimate legislative purpose."

The 1924 law does not require any legislative or policy rationale for obtaining tax returns, but some legal experts agree that a string of court opinions demanding legislative reasons could pose a significant hurdle for Democrats if they sue Mnuchin, Politico reports. Neal gave one policy reason, and he could presumably give more.

This dispute may very well be decided by the Supreme Court, eventually. For more context, read Paul Blumenthal's short, engaging history of how and why Congress gave itself the power to see anyone's tax returns in 1924. Peter Weber

April 10, 2019

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter Wednesday to the House Ways and Means Committee, announcing that his department won't meet the deadline for turning over six years of President Trump's tax returns.

Last week, Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent a formal request to the Internal Revenue Service for the returns, setting a deadline of April 10; he is one of three congressional leaders with the authority to request the tax returns of individuals. In his letter, Neal cited a 1924 law stating the IRS "shall furnish" records at the request of an authorized lawmaker.

Mnuchin wrote that he is discussing the request with the Justice Department, and feels it "raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose, and the constitutional rights of American citizens."

Previous presidents voluntarily released their tax returns, and Trump has given several reasons as to why he hasn't followed in their footsteps, saying that he can't do so because he is under audit, and also claiming they are so complex, no one would be able to understand them. There is no law keeping him from releasing tax returns while under audit. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads