BY: CONOR KELLY
After years of fighting, drama, and controversy, former President Donald Trump’s tax returns have finally been released. The release of Trump’s returns, authorized by the House Ways and Means Committee, serves as a reminder that Trump’s fog of deception can be overcome with the right leverage and pressure. But more than that, the returns themselves show just how little of Trump’s grandiose business acumen was tied to reality.
The infamous fight over Trump’s tax returns began in 2014 when then-candidate Trump seemingly promised to release his tax returns in an interview with Irish TV. The issue would return in 2016 when NBC’s Chuck Todd where Trump reiterated his desire to release the returns, saying:
“Well, we’re working on that now. I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time, Chuck. Absolutely…”Then-Candidate Trump to Chuck Todd, 2016.
Trump’s promise to release his tax returns was not solely tied to the 2016 presidential race. In 2011, when Trump was considering a presidential bid, the supposedly successful businessman promised to release his tax returns when “Obama does his birth certificate…”
After he was elected in 2016, Trump made multiple excuses for his refusal to release his tax returns. Among the most ridiculous excuse was his assertion that he was under audit and, therefore, couldn’t release his tax returns. It is worth noting that IRS Commissioner Rettig confirmed that there is no such rule preventing the release of tax returns during an audit in 2019.
It is perhaps unsurprising that Trump would want to keep his returns, especially when it demonstrates that his glorified past was just that, glorified lies. According to The Washington Post:
“The returns show that Trump paid little, if anything, in income taxes compared with his gross income over six years, including the four in which he served as president. Trump lost thousands of dollars in income from 2015 to 2017, largely due to net losses tied to real estate and other businesses. On his 2017 tax return, Trump claimed business expenses and other losses and deductions in excess of $279.5 million, significantly reducing the amount of tax he owed. Those deductions included “helicopter expenses” and foreign taxes paid.That year, he paid $750 in federal income taxes. Due to significant business losses in 2020, Trump paid no taxes.”Marianna Sotomayor et al., House panel releases Trump tax returns in another setback for former president, The Washington Post, December 30, 2022
The returns also demonstrate that Trump’s claims of giving his presidential salary to charity were, at best, a lie. According to those tax filings, Trump paid very little in charity, and in the case of 2020, the year when much of the economy was upended by Covid-19, he paid nothing at all to charity.
This release of these returns, of course, elicited a strong and angry response from the former president, as he railed against the idea of his tax returns being released, saying, “The Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people. The radical, left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember, that is a dangerous two-way street!”
Regardless of Trump’s threats, his tax returns are public. They once and for all show that there is nothing about Trump’s supposed financial greatness connected with reality in any way. His charitability was a lie. His success was a lie. Everything about his claimed strength in business was a lie. There can be no denying that Trump’s supposed strength in business, which Republicans used as a justification for his presidency, was nothing more than a smoke screen for what they really wanted: a partisan tool in the White House. And we are all paying the price for this lie.