Three Things Everyone Wants to Know About Donald Trump's Taxes

May 13th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

What could voters possibly learn from Donald Trump's tax returns? If you ask Trump, the answer is "nothing," but those who've seen some of the relevant information tend to disagree.


Trump says he'll release his tax returns after the I.R.S. completes an audit, which he'd "like" to happen before the election in November. But some people think the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is deliberately delaying the release; after all, the I.R.S. says nothing legally prevents Trump from disclosing his financial records while the audit is in progress.

Here are three things people want to know about Trump's tax returns.

1. Is Trump really as rich as he says he is?

"I'm really rich," Trump emphasizes, repeatedly, on the national stage. He makes this point to show that he's financially independent and uncorrupted by political interests that might want to buy his favor. But how rich is he, exactly? Trump's tax returns might not reveal the full extent of his wealth — personal income is only one component of an individual's total wealth — but it would "certainly reflect the financial wherewithal of the businesses in which Trump is involved," Bloomberg reports.

There's some evidence that Trump has overstated his wealth, according to FEC documents and a personal balance sheet analyzed by Forbes' Shawn Tully. And now that the candidate is openly embracing outside money to fund his campaign in the general election, his claims of financial abundance are under particular scrutiny.

2. How much money does Trump give to charity?

"I give to hundreds of charities and people in need of help," Trump told the Associated Press last year. "It is one of the things I most like doing and one of the great reasons to have made a lot of money."

Trump's record as a philanthropist has come under question on multiple occasions over the course of his presidential campaign. He says he's donated $102 million to charities in the past five years, but documents provided by his campaign show that almost none of those 4,844 donations came in the form of money. Rather, "many of the gifts that Trump cited to prove his generosity were free rounds of golf, given away by his courses for charity auctions and raffles," The Washington Post reports.


3. Has Trump used tax havens or shell companies?

Trump has vowed to lower taxes for individuals and businesses across the board, simplifying the tax code and eliminating income taxes entirely for single people who make $25,000 or less and joint households that make $50,000 or less. How does he plan to accomplish this sweeping reform? According to his campaign website, the reductions will be made possible by "[r]educing or eliminating most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich."


But some speculate that Trump himself has benefited from such loopholes. Last year he admitted, "I fight like hell to pay as little as possible." He's also on the record stating "I’ve taken advantage of the laws of this country, like other people" in the context of his business practices.

"Mr. Trump and his family have been the beneficiaries of a great rigged system: the tax code, which bestows huge advantages on the real estate business," The New York Times reports. "Throughout his career, Mr. Trump has not only grabbed for every loophole and legal lever he could find, he’s boasted about it."

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